Jails and Prisons were Never Built to Warehouse People with Mental Health Illnesses! The “Stepping Up Initiative” provides hope for change in America…

by | Aug 13, 2016

Stepping Up Initiative


Each year, there are an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses admitted to jails across the nation. That’s equivalent to the populations of Vermont and New Hampshire—combined. Almost three-quarters of these adults also have drug and alcohol use problems. Once incarcerated, individuals with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses.

Stepping Up: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails

The Stepping Up Initiative  Click here for this important message…a short video clip.


I want to recognize the heroic, passionate, and tireless work of our law enforcement, emergency services, and public health community in Lincoln County Oregon, and elsewhere in America!  It is an honor to know the top professionals who work each and every day on our behalf who have done so much for so long to create better conditions for the care of those in need who risk ending up on the wrong side of the law.  Please thank those in uniform for their service each time you see them.

I had the opportunity as a citizen of Lincoln County Oregon to visit our County Jail in Newport Oregon to see for myself what is considered a crisis in America that we must fix.  In our beautiful coastal community of Newport, Oregon, we warehouse people, upwards of 35% of jail population, with a variety of mental health and substance abuse illnesses. This unfortunate circumstance started to evolve way back during my childhood when we were closing down institutions for the mentally ill, forcing the challenge and responsibility back to our local communities, as we well should.  But the only place to send these troubled and challenged souls in our community has been to jail, period!  We were never prepared to provide adequate and humane treatment, transitional services or housing to help those who are sick to return to a healthy, responsible, and productive quality of life.  Lincoln County Oregon is a small rural county among 4000+ counties in the United States of America.  A crisis now exist at a critical mass that is completely unacceptable in America by our own well established moral obligations as well as constitutional rights.  

The law enforcement community has been screaming about this for many years to little or no avail until now…  The Stepping Up Initiative was formally launched during a summit in Washington D.C. this past April 2016.  Each and every county in America is in the process of launching the Stepping Up Initiative, including Lincoln County Oregon.

I’m proud and honored to have been invited to join the Lincoln County Oregon Board of Commissioners team, as a project consultant, to help guide the County in building a community wide collaborative strategy and implementation plan to launch the Stepping Up Initiative.  This effort is a true call to action by all citizens and stakeholders of Lincoln County Oregon and for all counties in Oregon and across America.  

I plan to provide updates on our progress in the County using this website as a platform for outreach on this important topic.  Mental Health affects children and families everywhere. Some families suffer for a lifetime without treatment or care.  We must build the capacity to take back our innately human responsibility to care for our citizens who are not able to care for themselves.  We must help our fellow citizens and neighbors get back on their feet so that they have the same opportunities in life to realize dreams of good health, happiness, and success as the rest of us. We can no longer ignore the inhumane conditions in our jails and prisons that we most often do not even see for ourselves, so we do not know.  I know now after a profoundly meaningful and emotional visit to our own Lincoln County Oregon Jail in Newport Oregon.

Please feel free to engage with me as I go on this new journey of public service in Lincoln County Oregon. You can do your part by sharing this blog post on your own social media networks.  Start the conversation with friends and neighbors to reform jails and prisons…it is our duty to fix.  You can also help directly as volunteers in your own community to make a difference at the local level.

Steve Sparks click here for my author page…


Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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