Mental Illness in County Jails a Top Agenda Item at NACo’s 2015 Conference

Ventura County, California's main jail

Ventura County, California's main jail 888bailbond /


Connecting state and local government leaders

County governments continue to struggle with establishing systems of care that cater to the 2 million offenders with mental illness in their collective jails.

County officials from across the United States will continue discussions about funding and policy strategies for reducing the 2 million offenders with mental illnesses, and often related substance abuse problems, in their jails.

The Stepping Up Initiative—which asks county governments to monitor jailhouse data on mental illness—launched in May, and partner National Association of Counties will spotlight the effort at its upcoming 80th annual conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A town hall discussion will feature clinical psychologist Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia with Cook County, Illinois’ jail, where one in three of its 9,000 to 11,000 offenders has a mental illness.

Per NACo:

More than 2,100 elected and appointed officials, exhibitors, presenters and guests are expected to participate in the 2015 NACo Annual Conference and Exposition. Attendees will adopt positions on pressing federal policies affecting counties and explore innovative solutions to challenges facing American communities.

Among them will be U.S. secretaries of defense and transportation touching on issues ranging from cybersecurity to automated vehicles. A special forum on innovation will cater purely to county chief information officers.

Sessions will address the growing field of health technology and the effects of medical and recreational marijuana policies on county governments.

In the wake of high-profile police-involved killings of African-American men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, law enforcement use of body cameras will be a hot topic.

The latest federal policies impacting counties in the areas of rural and urban development, energy, environment and land use, emergency preparedness and response, and housing and community development will also be addressed.

NACo, according to a media advisory on its conference, intends to unveil its new logo and website at this year’s gathering.

But the systems of care counties are developing to deliver health services to jailed offenders with mental illnesses is one of the most talked-about items on the association’s conference agenda. That summit starts at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 12.

The conference runs July 10-13 at the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St., in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

(Photo by 888bailbond /

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY: Pittsburgh’s ‘Shared Space’ Street Concept Could Be a National Trendsetter