A revolutionary collaborative effort of government and community partners again garnered recognition. The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) awarded the Stearns County Mental Health Steering Committee the County Achievement Award for creating positive, innovative changes.
The Mental Health Steering Committee gained momentum in 2017 after recognizing the need for a consolidated effort between agencies when working with individuals impacted by mental health issues. The Steering Committee includes a wide range of partners including the court system, Court Administration, County Attorney, City Attorney, Human Services (Community Corrections, Community Supports, and Public Health), Law Enforcement, Central Minnesota Mental Health Center,
St. Cloud VA, CentraCare, Stearns County Jail, and Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.
The committee quickly identified the “revolving door” of the same group of clients receiving the same services, often expensive services, over and over with no improvement in outcomes and at a high cost to taxpayers, the local health system, etc.
One example of the innovative work of this committee was the creation and implementation of the Community Action Team (CAT). This initiative began to address clients who are high users of community services such as the emergency room, county jail, and detox that were not only expensive, but ineffective for the person in crisis. This team works with the individual to determine their needs and then acts to meet those needs, such as housing, access to care, and employment. Next steps include the creation of a mental health/law enforcement co-responder model that will start in January.
This unique approach has yielded significant positive results for people suffering from mental illness, addiction, and other behavioral health issues, and can change their path and provide hope for their future. Data shows that, after CAT intervention, these clients use expensive and ineffective community resources significantly less. Law enforcement data shows a decline of people being placed in custody at detox, the emergency room, and jail, which also means less use of law enforcement resources. For example, after CAT intervention, the use of detox, emergency rooms, and jail by just one client showed a reduction in direct annual costs from $27,861 to only $200.
“This defines what the award is really about. Leading and innovating in ways that make county government better,” said Ryan Erdmann, AMC Member Engagement Coordinator. “This is such a good thing for taxpayers, better for CentraCare seeing fewer emergency room visits, and better for Stearns County with fewer stays in your county jail. It’s not just good for taxpayers, you’re making life better for the folks that suffer with mental illness. It’s such great work.”
In November, the CAT program won the Innovation Award and $1,000 from the Greater
St. Cloud Development Corporation. The group also received the 2019 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Criminal Justice Award for the collaborative work of the Mental Health Steering Committee.