Approximately two million times each year, people who have serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails across the nation. Almost three-quarters of these adults have drug and alcohol use problems. The Stepping Up Initiative is a national program with the goal to reduce the number of individuals in jails with mental illness. It is managed at the county level to establish effective partnerships across individuals in law enforcement, local governmental entities, elected officials, mental health and healthcare providers, courts, and other partners to meet the goal. As of December 2019, 24 of the 67 counties in Alabama have passed Stepping Up resolutions or proclamations, with over 530 counties in the United States.

“Delivering coordinated services…in jails or emergency rooms is a vital need in every county in our state.

This grant opportunity can assist local mental health centers to fill in the gap and become a connection for those in need.

ADMH Commissioner Kim Boswell

Mental health centers in fourteen of 25 Stepping Up counties are currently funded by the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH). The department's leadership has spearheaded a unique implementation of Stepping Up; to serve populations in jails, emergency rooms, and courts. These settings are often ill-equipped to appropriately address the needs of people with serious mental illness (SMI), substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. These individuals are better served with appropriate mental health and support services.

ADMH has awarded a grant of $50,000 to centers through an RFP process. This award supported intensive case management services to screen, assess, develop a case plan for and link clients to appropriate, necessary mental health (i.e., group/individual mental health counseling, crisis intervention, and court advocacy) and social services (i.e., housing, transportation, food); recruitment for and facilitation of a local planning committee to create supportive local policies, and community outreach to mobilize community support.

Alabama has two counties that have earned national Innovator Project designations: Mobile County and Shelby County. This reflects sites that meet the national standards of achieving 3 criteria: Establish a shared definition of severe mental illness (SMI) that is used throughout the local criminal justice and behavioral health systems; Use a validated mental health screening tool on every person booked into the jail and refer people who screen positive for symptoms of SMI to a follow-up clinical assessment by a licensed mental health professional; and Record clinical assessment results and regularly report on this population.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health has a goal of incorporating a Stepping Up program in every county by the end of the Fiscal Year 2022. Governor Kay Ivey and legislators have generously allotted $1.8 million for Fiscal Year 2021, to expand the program by an additional 28 counties.

If continued progress is made and investment by all partners is sustained, communities can benefit from:

  • Increased treatment for individuals living with mental illness
  • More efficient use of public funds
  • Less strain on jails and law enforcement
  • Increased peace of mind for families and the community
  • Healthier community members
  • Greater prosperity for the entire community

Report on Year 1 of Stepping Up Alabama
Report on Year 2 of Stepping Up Alabama

The Stepping Up initiative is sponsored by the National Association of Counties, the American Psychiatric Foundation, and The Council of State Governments Justice Center, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Since its inception in May 2015, more than 530 counties in 43 states have passed resolutions or proclamations to join the Stepping Up Initiative.

The awardees for the fiscal year 2021 are:
Altapointe Health – Mobile, Talladega, Washington Counties
Central Alabama Wellness – Shelby County
East Alabama Mental Health Center – Chambers, Tallapoosa, Russell Counties
Indian Rivers Mental Health Center - Tuscaloosa County
Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama – Morgan, limestone, Lawrence Counties
WellStone – Cullman & Madison Counties
West Alabama Mental Health Center – Marengo County

Additional counties are expected to join in July 2021.

The awardees for the fiscal year 2020 are:
Altapointe Health
East Alabama Mental Health Center
Indian Rivers Mental Health Center
Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama
West Alabama Mental Health Center

The awardees for the fiscal year 2019 are:
Central Alabama Wellness
CED Mental Health Center
Marshall-Jackson 310 Agency
Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama
WellStone – Huntsville & Cullman locations