The Stepping Up Initiative

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The Stepping Up Initiative is a national effort to divert people with mental illness from jails and into treatment. The campaign brings together a powerful coalition of national organizations, including NAMI, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, the American Psychiatric Foundation and numerous law enforcement associations, mental health organizations, and substance abuse organizations. 

The initiative will challenge counties and local communities to work together to find solutions that work for the local community. The campaign will also support local leaders by providing examples of effective reforms and connecting them with other communities that are successfully reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails.

If you are a NAMI leader, here are resources you can use to talk to your elected officials.

The Stories

Many of the people on the frontlines of this issue—from those living with mental illnesses to those working in the criminal justice and behavioral health systems—have experienced struggles and successes that highlight the impact of the problem and the complexities of addressing it. 

Stepping Up Initiative developed a series called “31 Days, 31 Stories,” in which a new profile will be published each day during Mental Health Month in May. Highlighted below are the stories that NAMI helped contribute.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Lloyd Hale

Too many times your mental health condition becomes a reality that’s impossible to escape. It’s easy to be on the other side of your mental illness and see the moments that changed you, but it’s a different feeling when you’re in the middle of it and suddenly it dawns on you: I need help.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Terry Taggart

My demons still haunted me, but I got wonderful help from my mom, sister, and psychiatrist. My family and I hooked up with NAMI and we went to support groups.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Grace Garcia

Believe it or not, I thank God I was in jail. It’s what turned my life of drinking, drugging, and partying into one filled with love and purpose.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Dixie Gamble

Family struggle inspired Dixie Gamble to make crisis intervention training films for first responders.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Herb Cotner

Family-to-Family taught me how important education is to families, especially with the crisis in mental health care and what’s being asked of law enforcement today. 

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Erwin Lenowitz

Two years in, he’s doing exceptionally well. He understands his situation and circumstances. He knows he’s on meds for life.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Patrick Kennedy

There is hope for everyone, even people who have been involved with the criminal justice system. In fact, most people who have mental illnesses have conditions that are manageable.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Kevin Earley

I decided to become an active part of my treatment, taking my medication, and working toward recovery.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Mike Weaver

I had felt like a failure for five years, but to be contributing and making a difference changed that.

 

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Kris and John Wilkinson

But now we have more hope than we ever thought we would and want to work to give others that hope and support.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Bill Carruthers

NAMI Peer-to-Peer spoke to my intellectual side. We talked about the science of addiction. When I was exposed to this, I had an epiphany. There wasn’t something wrong with me morally. I’ve got a disease.

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31 Stories, 31 Days: Paton Blough

The biggest shame of my life has been my criminal record—now I get to take my experiences and help save lives in my community.

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