Elected Officials, Law Enforcement, and Health Professionals gather to discuss best practices

It was my honor to convene the AOC C3 Summit – Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. –  in Salem on May 9. The focus of the day was the Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort to reduce the number of people with mental illness in county jails and the subject of my AOC presidential initiative.

Nearly 150 people were in attendance, with registrants almost evenly split between county commissioners, law enforcement representatives and health professionals.

Underscoring the national nature of this effort was the presence of Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks from Tarrant County, Texas, the first vice president of the National Association of Counties (NACo). In fact, it was also the same day the state of North Carolina held its own Stepping Up Initiative Summit.

The reasons why NACo joined with the Council of State Governments and the American Psychiatric Association to launch Stepping Up two years ago this month are compelling. When people with mental illness are imprisoned, they generally don’t get better, the community isn’t made safer, and scarce public resources are wasted.

This is an interesting challenge, like so many the opportunities we face in public life. We do know how to fix it—there’s an ample list of best practices—but getting there is tougher in reality than it is on paper. We don’t have enough resources, and we’ve been operating in silos for far too long when we should hav