Crawford County Avalanche: Agreement addresses care for residents with mental illness in criminal justice system, by Dan Sanderson-Staff Writer, Tuesday, September 30, 2014 3:34 PM EDT

The Crawford County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement between the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, court officials and Northern Lakes Community Mental Health aimed at keeping people with mental health officials out of courtrooms and jail cells.

Public Act 28 requires each county to have a written interagency agreement to provide mental health services to persons with mental illness who are involved in or are entering the criminal justice system.

Public Act 29 amended the State Mental Health Code to prohibit the Department of Community Health from preventing the use of general fund and general purpose dollars to provide mental health services to county jail inmates if the community health services program has entered into an interagency agreement and has agreed with a county to provide those services.

Crawford County Sheriff Kirk Wakefield said the county has previously been involved with Northern Lakes Community Mental Health through a jail services agreement. He said the public acts will streamline and formalize the services so they are the same in each county. Northern Lakes Community Mental Health covers six counties.

“Now that these public acts are in place, it holds everybody’s feet to the fire,” Wakefield said. “It’s no longer hit and miss. It has to be done in a timely manner.”

Under the agreement, it will address people with a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that has existed within the last year, which limits one or more major life activities. Disorders regarding  substance abuse, a developmental disorder or other diagnoses may be included if they occur in conjunction with another diagnosable serious mental illness.


The interagency agreement will provide services for people at risk of entering the criminal justice system, that are not receiving mental health treatment services during a period of incarceration in the county jail, who are not receiving needed mental health services upon release or discharge from incarceration in the county jail or are being committed to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Wakefield said the agreement serves as a safety net for people who may be on public assistance, which can be revoked when they are arrested.

“When there is an arrest, and that person is on assistance, that assistance goes away, so we get stuck with a big bill,” Wakefield said.  “We’ve fought that battle for many years.”

Specific services will be determined by Eligibility and Level of Care Guidelines. Jail staff will continue to administer the existing initial screening upon an individual’s admission to the jail and request contact with mental health officials as needed

Upon determination of eligibility, mental health staff will develop an individual plan of service, which will include assertive community treatment, case management, and outpatient therapy and peer support services.

People being served under the agreement must allow mental health officials to communicate with court and jail staff regarding services. Mental health staff will provide the probation officer or jail administration with a summary of the treatment goals and will provide periodic progress updates as determined appropriate for each individual.

The court may require participation in mental health services as a condition for pretrial release or as a term of probation. Mental health  officials agree to include support of individuals, including family or other stakeholders, in treatment as the participant chooses or as the court orders.

The program is completed when the participant has met the goals to the satisfaction of mental health staff. While participation in the program will end upon termination of court jurisdiction, treatment and other services may continue as agreed upon by mental health officials and the participant.

Greg Paffhouse, the CEO for Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, said the agreement allows them to provide more comprehensive services than in the past.

“It’s broader than simply a jail services agreement  and it’s a coordination of services that we can provide to people who have been identified as a priority population for treatment in the counties,” Paffhouse said. “It’s certainly trying to reduce the amount of people who require mental health services from ending up in jail and they will be getting  the help where they need it.”

Wakefield said all agencies have worked well together in the past.

“They have always served us well,” Wakefield said.  “They take care of us when we call and that is the whole idea.”