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Boone County working to stop the incarceration cycle

Boone County is matching criminal justice data with information about homelessness to help identify unmet mental health needs.

“We know those folks who are cycling in and out of systems often have co-occurring substance use disorders or mental health issues,” said county Director of Community Services Kelly Wallis.

The homelessness data is taken when a person checks in and out of a shelter and the criminal justice data is found through jail booking records.

“That’s really showing a Venn Diagram approach of the people that are intersecting both systems,” said Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson.

Thompson said the county has been working on the project for years and plans to implement it in early 2019.

Thompson said this can better identify special care a person cycling through the system might need, including mental health services or housing.

“We are seeing studies where supportive housing is reducing recidivism and is helping individuals have better outcomes,” Wallis said.

Boone County and the Columbia Housing Authority are working together to connect people with housing once they are released from jail.

Thompson said lack of housing is a major factor in recidivism.

“They will simply be going in one door and out the other,” Thompson said.

The intersection of mental illness and criminal justice has drawn attention statewide. On Friday, mental health officials were part of a conference on criminal justice in Linn, which included a session on mental health.

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