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Stratton speaks about criminal justice, mental health

The Daily Record - 8/29/2017

WOOSTER — When former Ohio Supreme Court Judge Evelyn Stratton came to town, she offered real solutions for local problems.

She got into the thick of a two-day workshop called “Sequential Intercept Mapping” joining criminal justice and mental health partnerships. Attended at the American Red Cross headquarters in Wooster by representatives from a number of local agencies, its purpose, said Judy Wortham Wood, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Wayne and Holmes Counties, was “keeping folks with mental health problems out of jail and the criminal justice system.”

“I wanted to bring you up-to-date ... (with) new resources,” said Stratton, who is project director for the steering committee of The Stepping Up Initiative of Ohio, the mission of which is “improving the outcomes for mentally ill persons in the criminal justice system.”

Stratton commended Wayne County for its forward thinking and progress in that commitment.

In seeking grants and using available assistance, “we like to say we teach you to fish,” Stratton said, beginning with a list she distributed of 10 free resources. “If you’ve got a local issue, we take it vertically to the steering committee.”

Stratton also discussed helping people navigate childcare, energy and veterans benefits assistance.

For example, “you do not have to have a veterans court to access your services,” Stratton said. One of the 10 free resources on the list was information about Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists, free legal assistance and “how to join the VA service to identify veterans who are arrested by matching their VA database profile.”

Referring to all that is available for a variety of issues encountered by counties in the area of criminal justice and mental health concerns, Stratton said, “Do something with it because you have a whole host of services.”

Faith-based organizations also can be of assistance in re-entry programs and may already be providing help that no one knows about. “Someone needs to ask,” Stratton said.

With Stratton were Thom Craig, director of the mental health program for the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation; and Melissa Knopp, project coordinator and director of Hocking College Institute for Social and Economic Advancement.

“Very interested in funding” programs and projects, the foundation recognizes “even a van in a county can really make a difference,” Craig said.

One of the issues Craig is examining is “what would it take to inject technical assistance and up-to-date thinking when developing a crisis center?”

Along with the need for data sharing — a complex topic, he said — a critical issue is transportation.

“What we should be doing is finding who has cracked the code on this,” Craig said. “I think that’s what we have to do,” including “being willing to travel” to discover a model.

“People are in crisis and they’re having trouble getting to their appointments (for services),” he said.

Another of the “things that really stood out” to Craig, he said, was “the real need for housing.”

“My role in Stepping Up,” said Knopp, is data and diagnostics. While 96 percent of counties screen for mental illness, only 52 percent of them are using validated instruments, and only 48 percent share the information with courts and probation officers.

Social services and law enforcement representatives talked with Stratton, Craig and Knopp about improvements in the areas discussed.

“You are one of our shining stars,” Stratton said of Wayne County. “There is some real progress. Hopefully, we’ve been able to share with you new tools.”

Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at lhall@the-daily-record.com.

CREDIT: LINDA HALL

 
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