Feb 07

A New Term: Looking Back & Leading Forward

Posted on February 7, 2019 at 9:42 AM by Jennifer Fulton

By Sheriff Jeff Shrader
February 1, 2019
 
A new year is often viewed as a fresh start, an opportunity to make improvements and face challenges, both in our personal lives and professional. For me, this January marks the beginning of my second term in office and I am fortunate to be able to continue our efforts to ensure Jefferson County is a safe place for all people to live, learn, work, and play. During my first term we made many improvements while also overcoming some challenges and I expect to do the same over the next four years.

One of the challenges I faced personally during my first term was clearing up some confusion regarding my professional role. A few years ago my granddaughter, who was three at the time, spent the night at our house. The next morning she saw me in uniform for the first time and promptly asked “Grandpa are you going to the circus?” 

So it would seem. 

Since then, I have embraced the notion that law enforcement is a circus of sorts and I have a front row seat to the greatest show on earth. Sometimes I even feel like the ringleader. While I trust you understand the role of law enforcement better than my granddaughter, there is still potential for miscommunication and misunderstanding, a challenge we strive to overcome through transparency. Therefore, I would like to share some of the challenges we face and the improvements we have and will continue to make to address those challenges.

Since 2014, crime has increased in unincorporated Jefferson County by approximately 25%. We have also seen reported increases in substance abuse, mental illness, and homelessness during the same timeframe. Often these conditions co-occur with individuals, complicating their interactions with law enforcement and the community. Approximately 300 individuals are booked into the jail each month with substance addictions that require a withdrawal protocol, and 15 – 17% of the jail population has a mental health issue.

As a result, the sheriff’s office has implemented programs to help address these challenges. In Patrol we utilize a co-responder model that partners mental health professionals with law enforcement. Two case managers from the Jefferson Center for Mental Health train deputies in de-escalation techniques, manage individuals with a history of law enforcement contacts, and respond alongside deputies to calls related to mental illness when necessary. In addition, 46% of our patrol deputies are certified in crisis intervention to better manage incidents with individuals suffering from mental health issues.

In Detentions we have established a new Behavioral Health Unit that houses inmates with substance abuse or mental health issues. The BHU offers a series of programs, activities and therapies that can be continued outside the jail with the goal of preventing an inmate’s return. We also introduced Vivitrol in the jail. Vivitrol is a medication assisted treatment that blocks opioid cravings, prevents relapses, and significantly reduces recidivism for those who participate in the voluntary program. To date, seven inmates have received the medication prior to their release and have been provided with follow-up medical appointments and resources to help ensure their success. 

In addition, we were recently awarded a $700,000 grant from the Department of Justice for a multi-year re-entry program that will assess and manage inmates with co-occurrence of substance abuse and mental health issues. Case management for qualifying inmates includes plans focusing on needs for housing, transportation, education, medical, mental health, and substance addiction. The re-entry program is also intended to reduce recidivism for a significant portion of the 95% of inmates who re-enter the community upon their release from jail.  

These initiatives are just some of the steps we have taken to address the challenges our community faces in terms of substance abuse and mental health. These efforts will continue and many more will begin during my second term as ringleader. We will face the challenges, make more improvements, and continue to offer you a front row seat through our transparency. 
Until the next Behind the Badge, I encourage you to take a few minutes to review our five-year Strategic Plan that outlines our goals and objectives through 2023. The plan is available on our website here