In recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, Penobscot County will join with counties across the country to celebrate the three-year anniversary of Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illness in Jails with a Day of Action. Stepping Up has seen remarkable progress across the nation with more than 415 nationwide joining the movement by passing resolutions or proclamations to make this issue a top priority.

Penobscot County is proud to be the first county in Maine to join the Stepping Up Initiative and the only county to attend the Stepping Up Summit in 2016. Since the County Commissioners and Sheriff Morton decided to join the initiative, Penobscot County has worked tirelessly to address the incarceration of individuals living with a mental illness. Recognizing that on any day over 70 percent of inmates may be prescribed psychotropic medications, County leadership are committed to ensure that individuals who present as low risk to the community are able to access mental health services rather than costly incarceration.

Building on a decade long Jail and Mental Health Diversion collaborative effort, Penobscot County has been leading the effort to work across disciplines to find solutions. Working in close partnership with NAMI Maine and Community Health and Counseling Services, Sheriff Morton has made remarkable strides while still ensuring community safety.  Accomplishments made to date include:

  1. Implementation of a new validated screening and data collection system
  2. Development of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Counsel
  3. Increasing the availability of mental health services through provider change
  4. Increasing the number of Corrections Officers who have completed CIT training and other mental health trainings
  5. Working in Partnership with NAMI Maine to promote legislative change to allows for access to care within the mental health system.

If you would like to learn more about the Stepping Up Initiative, please feel free to contact: Sheriff Morton at 207-947-4585; Wally Fraser, LCPC, CHCS at 207-922-4800; Jenna Mehnert, NAMI Maine at (207) 907-0303.

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