Community ‘stepping up’ to help inmates with mental illnesses

Louise Oleson
Jail director Rob Johnson discusses the need to help those who are mentally ill, untreated and in jail.

Executive Director of the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center Rob Johnson briefed the Devils Lake City Commission about the Stepping Up Initiative at Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting in City Hall.

This was not the first time they had heard about the project that would aid law enforcement in assessment and follow-through for individuals with mental illness whom they encounter through the Law Enforcement Center. Johnson explained that what is intended for the Lake Region may end up being a pilot project for the entire state. The initiative would provide an assessment tool they can use when individuals come into and through the system.

Johnson estimated that 75 percent of those incarcerated have some degree of mental illness. this tool will help in determining who has mental illness, what type of mental illness they have and may help in determining what treatment or follow-through is needed for each individual case.

He emphasized that it is something the entire community will need to be involved with from the jail, the re-entry center, probation and the courts to provide the continuous follow-up and a continuum of care wherever they go after their assessment.

One big need is housing, Johnson said. Currently places to live for individuals with criminal records are rare. They’re working on it in this community, but it remains a real concern.

At this meeting Johnson was asking the commission to vote on whether or not they wished to participate in this initiative and if they did, to elect or name a representative to be a part of the process.

Commissioner Dale Robbins expressed interest in being involved in the initiative and the planning surrounding its implementation. His fellow commission members elected him their representative after affirming their interest in fully supporting the Stepping Up Initiative.

Mayor Dick Johnson assured Johnson that the city supported this initiative, “It’s something we have needed for a very long time,” the mayor said, citing his many years in law enforcement and his own experience in Johnson’s role.

Other business

In other business before the city, bids were opened for water, sewer and street improvements for District 57-17. Four bids were read and handed over to Mike Grafsgaard for review and recommendation.

A committee is being formed to screen applicants for the Devils Lake Police Chief position.

The consent agenda of three items was passed without debate.

New business dealt with infrastructure loan documents, a memorandum of understanding for use of Odyssey Case Management, a pledge of assets submitted by local institutions for investment of city funds, a resolution to go forward with water, sewer and street improvements for District 57-17 (Mauve Estates on 3rd St. NE) and a resolution determining insufficient protests were filed in Street Improvement District No. 65-17 (5th Ave. SE, south of Highway2).

A list of bills were approved as submitted and two reports accepted; the monthly Municipal Court report and the Police Department monthly report.