The Stepping Up Initiative

A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jail

The number of people with mental illness in U.S. jails has reached crisis levels. In counties across the nation there are more people with mental illnesses in jails than in psychiatric hospitals.

Stepping Up meetingTwo million times each year, people with serious mental illness end up in jail in the United States. 

Thankfully, county officials are increasingly aware that lasting, systemic change is needed to better link people to treatment—all while improving public safety in more effective and fiscally responsible ways.

Recognizing that the critical role local and state officials play in supporting systems change, the National Association of Counties, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, and The Council of State Governments Justice Center launched The Stepping Up Initiative in May 2015.

Stepping Up is a national movement to provide counties with the tools they need to develop cross-system, data-driven strategies that can lead to measurable reductions in the number of people with mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders in jails.

With support from public and private entities such as, Janssen, Alkermes, Otsuka, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Elizabeth K. Dollard Trust, Stepping Up builds on the many innovative and proven practices being implemented across the country. Visit to learn more.

The work of this initiative could not be done without the support of our sponsors:


Intervention, not incarceration

Roughly two million people with serious mental illnesses are booked into local jails each year. Jails are our de facto mental health institutions.

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Growing support for change

More than 400 counties have passed resolutions or proclamations to participate in The Stepping Up Initiative.

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Stepping Up Program Contact

Christopher Seeley, MSW
Program Director, School and Justice Initiatives
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