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Mental health leaders hope new, "Moneyball" approach will reduce recidivism at JoCo jail

joco mental health center.jpg
Posted at 6:53 AM, Jan 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-14 07:53:52-05

OLATHE, Kan. — The "Moneyball" approach helped the Kansas City Royals win a World Series, and now mental health leaders want to use the same data-focused principles to save taxpayers money and help people live better lives.

After crunching the numbers, Tim DeWeese, the director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, realized more inmates suffer from some form of mental illness than he thought, and his organization needs to provide services inside the county jail, not just to people once they get out.

"That 'Moneyball' approach, being able to make good, data-driven decisions and being able to target your resources in a thoughtful way, makes a whole lot of sense and it allows you to be able to provide a higher level of care and do it in a thoughtful way," DeWeese explained.

The Johnson County, Kansas, Sheriff's Office was using a different organization to provide mental healthcare in the jail, but DeWeese pointed out there was a lack of continuity when inmates left the jail and were supposed to continue treatment with the county's mental health center.

So, beginning this year, the sheriff will contract the Johnson County Mental Health Center to work inside the adult detention center; transferring the $1.5 million it annually gave to an outside company to the county's own center.

The mental health center will hire 12.5 new positions. It will offer counseling and case management to people in the jail and continue to work with those people once the jail releases them.

The main goal is to keep people with mental illness from ending up back behind bars.

"When you, as a community, can help support people to live healthy lives, and their social needs are taken care of, you see less dependence upon the system," DeWeese pointed out.

By simply working with people once they got out of jail since 2017, the Johnson County Mental Health Center says preliminary results show recidivism rates have dropped 25 percent. The center only expects that number to improve with the new set up.