McLean County is one of three areas in the state and 67 in the nation to take part in a new federal justice program aimed at diverting low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system.
The Data Driven Justice Initiative seeks to integrate innovative strategies that have already helped reduce jail populations in some communities. McLean County Administrator Bill Wasson said the biggest payoff is some offenders will get the help they badly need.
"If they do have behavioral health issues or illness, then we're going to get them into treatment instead of into a jail cell or into a chair in the emergency room," Wasson said.
Wasson said the federal initiative won't result in any dollars flowing to the county, but there will be technology consultants available to help integrate systems.
"Being able to move the data that we need and how we move it, how we share it, in a secure and appropriate manner, " Wasson added.
He said the county was chosen because of the criminal justice integration work already in place in McLean County. Wasson said the effort is "just another piece of the puzzle" in helping to solve county mental health needs, particularly among jail inmates. The county is moving forward on a $45 million jail expansion project, which will include improved mental health services.
He said county officials have been working with the federal government at the White House's request since February. Champaign and Lake Counties are other Illinois counties directly involved, and Governor Rauner is touting Illinois' overall participation.
Read the White House information sheet on the Data Driven Justice initiative.