Mental illness and jail: Grant targets recidivism in South King County

Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation, in conjunction with the SCORE jail, New Connections of South King County and Washington State University-Spokane, has received a $1.1 million grant to develop, implement and assess a "forensic peer support" model aimed at helping those with mental illness reduce their recidivism rate in the criminal justice system.

Recidivism is a term to describe a relapse into previous criminal behavior.

The two-year grant comes from the Bristol Meyers Squibb Foundation, and is the first grant awarded by that group to an organization in the Pacific Northwest. The foundation is one of the largest philanthropy foundations in the world, with programs aimed at fighting cancer in Europe, combating hepatitis in Asia, trying to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, and here in the U.S., helping those with mental illness and Type 2 diabetes.

Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson and Valley Cities CEO Ken Taylor were on hand during the Federal Way City Council's Dec. 6 meeting to explain how the grant can help local residents.

"Our hope is to reduce recidivism of those who are in the SCORE facility," Wilson said of South King County's new regional jail. The grant will also address "the tremendous needs of those suffering from mental illness who are incarcerated, and to give them some support and tools once they leave the facility."

Wilson said the program will train people who have a history of mental illness and trouble with the law to help others like them.

"These services will provide practical assistance to help build a support system that will assist in their successful return to the community and stop the cycle of coming back into the criminal justice system," Wilson said. "There is a buzz in King County and the mental health field, about this program and the research behind it. We think it might be one of the most promising mental health program services and research (programs) across the country."

Taylor said he has a lot of enthusiasm for the grant and program.

"We know that a lot of people with major mental illness end up on the streets, in shelters, and they also end up in jail," Taylor said. "If we're successful, and I firmly believe we will be, we will make a direct impact on the rates of recidivism for people with mental illness. That's a great thing for them, and it's also a great thing for Federal Way and other SCORE cities, because ultimately, we'll be having a lot fewer people who are incarcerated."


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