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Stepping Up program turns 3

Daily Democrat - 5/23/2018

MONTROSE - The Lee County Board of Supervisors passed a proclamation during its regular meeting Tuesday recognizing May as Mental Health Month.

As a part of this the county joined in the celebration of being a part of "Stepping Up - A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jail."

According to Transition Link Community Transition Coordinator Deb Bergquist, Tuesday was a day of celebration.

"We are celebrating the amount of work we are doing with mental health," Bergquist said.

She said the program has been working closely with jails and parole officers.

When the budget for mental health was cut by the state, she considered it to be damaging to everyone involved.

"It hurt our programs, that's for sure," Bergquist said. "But Iowa, being filled with the working people that it is, know that they can band together and do the best they can with mental illness."

Bergquist said the next step is to bring in additional new programs to help people with mental illnesses.

Also attending the meeting was South East Iowa Link (SEIL) CEO/ Coordinator of Disability Services Ryanne Wood. SEIL is a branch of the Iowa Department of Human Services serving the needs of mental health and disability services in Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Van Buren and Washington counties in Iowa.

According to Wood, the three-year mark of the membership of Stepping Up, which takes place in June, has been working wonders.

"Stepping Up has seen remarkable progress, with more than 415 counties across the country joining the movement by passing resolutions or proclamations to make this issue a top priority," Wood said. "Stepping Up Day of Action activities are taking place across the country to share progress and raise public awareness of the issues facing individuals with mental illness, particularly those who are involved in or at risk of becoming involved with the criminal justice system."

Wood said former Lee County Sheriff first showed interest in mental health issues of prisoners and wanted to take measures to treat offenders so that the offenders would not be repeat offenders.


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