Our Response: Mental Health Crisis

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Opens in new windowPeople in a mental health crisis are more likely to encounter law enforcement and the criminal justice system than they are to receive the medical treatment they need.

Together with community partners, Sarpy County leaders are working to better serve those impacted by mental illness and ultimately decriminalize the disease.

The Problem

When people with mental illness are jailed, their issues are rarely adequately treated, and their jail stays end up being much longer than inmates without mental illness. Because their underlying issues aren’t resolved, they are likely to reoffend. 

Our Solutions

Sarpy County is Stepping Up

Sarpy County is recognized nationally as an innovator, among more than 550 counties in the Stepping Up program. Stepping Up is an initiative that supports community-based services that reduce incarceration and reincarceration, responds effectively to people in crisis, and ultimately prevents contact with the justice system. 

As an innovator county, Sarpy lead the country in implementing high-impact strategies to foster better outcomes.

[Learn More About Local 'Stepping Up' Efforts]

Sarpy County Establishes the State’s First Mental Health Wellness Court 

Wellness Court is voluntary and available to people diagnosed with a serious mental illness who are charged with a nonviolent felony. Participants meet regularly with the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, treatment providers, probation officers and law enforcement. The program helps stabilize participant by ensuring they: 

  • have stable housing 
  • avoid drugs and alcohol 
  • and are connected with various treatment and community services. 
If we can get people early, who are coming into contact with law enforcement and get them the proper

Sarpy County Partners with UNMC on Psychiatry Fellowship

Sarpy County and the University of Nebraska Medical Center will partner to create Nebraska’s first forensic psychiatry fellowship to assess and treat inmates experiencing mental illness. The UNMC fellow will provide psychiatric treatment, prescribe medication, help with medication management, provide court testimony and reports, and potentially complete competency evaluations for Sarpy County inmates with mental illness.  

Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office Creates Area’s First Mental Health Unit

The Sheriff’s Office Mental Health Unit is fully trained in how to recognize mental illness and how best to respond to a person who’s suffering from bipolar disorder, depression or otherwise in crisis.

The county has also developed a mental health field guild for officers, which serves as a quick reference with tips on how to deal with people experiencing suicidal thoughts, addiction, crisis, trauma and people with autism, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It includes a list of medications and what they're used to treat, and has information about Nebraska laws for adults and youth in emergency protective custody.

Sarpy County Mental Health Diversion

Created in 2012, Diversion is a voluntary program that’s offered as an alternative to the formal court process for people who commit low-level crimes and are referred.

Participants work with the Diversion Office to follow an individualized program, which can include conditions like attending therapy, taking prescribed medications and participating in other services to address their mental illness, substance abuse issues or addictions. 

We want to eliminate that revolving door and get people the help they need so they can live their li
  1. Dr. Kimberly Clawson to Lead Innovative Psychiatry Fellowship at Sarpy County Correctional Center

    The goal is to treat inmates’ psychiatric needs, connect them with community resources and ultimately set them up for more positive outcomes upon release. Read on...
  2. Mental Health Diversion serves as an alternative to incarceration

    Sarpy County made a significant commitment to helping those experiencing mental illness with the creation of the Mental Health Diversion program. Read on...
  3. An overview of mental health services in Sarpy County

    Today, people in crisis are more likely to come into contact with law enforcement and the criminal justice system than they are to receive necessary medical attention. That puts jurisdictions like Sarpy County on the front lines of this important issue. Read on...
  4. Mental health on the front lines with the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office

    For three years, the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office has zeroed in on ways to improve its response to people experiencing mental health crisis. Read on...
  5. Support while on pretrial release through the Mental Health Case Management Program

    For people in custody or awaiting trial, life can feel uncertain. Sarpy County’s Mental Health Case Management Program is designed to assist people with mental illness as they navigate the criminal justice system. Read on...
  6. Sarpy County to launch state’s first mental health court

    Sarpy County has established Nebraska’s first mental health court, an innovative problem-solving court designed to focus on people with mental illnesses who are facing felony charges. Read on...