Missoula County was awarded the opportunity to join the National Stepping Up Summit in Washington D.C. in April. The big news came in today and County Commissioner Cola Rowley said it’s an honor to be selected.

"It's been like a year-long national initiative where counties could pass resolutions and sign on basically committing to putting forth initiatives to reduce the number of people with mental illness in their jails," Rowley said. "The culmination after this year was technical assistance and networking. There's a summit in Washington D.C. that we put in an application for and we were accepted to go."

Rowley said one big thing the team will gain from this experience is focusing, prioritizing and implementing effective outcome driven efforts to help reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails. She also outlined some goals the county hopes to work toward.

"One of those is to increase diversion from the detention center and emergency room with law enforcement training and community partnerships to reduce those numbers of people in our jail with mental health issues. We're hoping to increase the capacity of care of individuals who have mental illness at the detention center," Rowley said. "We want to reduce recidivism rates for individuals with mental illness, but also involve family members in treatment and establish a peer program for crisis response."

The Missoula County team is comprised of Commissioners Curtiss and Rowley, Sheriff McDermott, Executive Director of Western Montana Mental Health Center Katherine Issacson and Deputy County Attorney Jessica Simons.