by William Skink
It looks like my criticism is ruffling some feathers.
The manager of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Kristen Jordan, penned a late night response to this post about the mobile crisis unit.
Before getting to Jordan’s response, here is some info from the County website about the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC):
The Missoula CJCC is a formal committee made up of key criminal justice system stakeholders who are either elected or senior level policymakers. These stakeholders meet regularly to discuss criminal justice reforms.
The CJCC will focus on data-driven and structured planning process to identify, analyze, and solve or manage system issues such as jail crowding, resource reductions, ethnic and racial disparities, case processing inefficiencies, and how to work with a challenging client population, such as those with mental illness and/or substance abuse, as examples.
So, this committee works on the systemic handling of a “challenging client population”, the same population I spent 7 years of my life trying to help. Since I’m no longer in that position, I guess I will have to rely on experts like Kristen Jordan to explain to me why my criticism is so wrong. Let’s get started with Jordan’s comment:
Good evening, Mr Skink and TC, my name is Kristen Jordan and, Mr Skink, I am the one you have quoted throughout your article. I have a few comments in response:
1. Planning for the MCT lasted for 8 months and included key, if not executive, representation from 911, MPD, Sheriff, Poverello, NAMI, MESI, City, County, City Fire, and Rural Fire.
Am I supposed to be impressed by the fact a whopping EIGHT MONTHS was taken up in planning the mobile crisis unit? And am I supposed to be further impressed that “executive representation” was involved? From my experience, “executive representation” is great for conversations about money, but not so great when it comes to the boots-on-the-ground reality that I dealt with in my job at the shelter.
2. 24/7 is NOT required at this time. TC, you mentioned data that speaks to run reports, which I have not heard of, but we did look at 911, MPD, Sheriff, Fire, and MESI call volume related to mental health calls and made the decision to NOT run a 24/7 team based on this data. Teams will be available based on data from these first responders and Law Endorsement. As I have said before, if data shows that we need something further at the end of the pilot project, we will restructure the program to accommodate this after the pilot. This is the whole purpose of a pilot project- to try something and see what works and what doesn’t’ work and then to make changes based on that information.
While data is important, the actual direct experiences of first responders and other community supports is also important. If those experiences are not acknowledged, then how do you expect to generate buy-in from those stakeholders?
3. Mr Skink, you seem to have a lot of experience. I’d like to add to that experience, the hands on knowledge and experience that was brought to the planning table by 911, MPD, Sheriff, Fire (City and Rural), The Poverello, and MESI. Added to that, is consultation with national service providers, including staff at CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon and other key Mobile Crisis service providers from across the country. You need to know that all of these folks disagree with you on the 24/7 rollout and ensuring things are “perfect” before starting. They disagree with you because they know that getting a Mobile Crisis Team up and running is essential, regardless of whether or not our community has a perfect social service network.
Did I say things needed to be “perfect” before starting? No, I said nothing like that. Maybe Kristen Jordan should compose her email diatribes during business hours to ensure clarity of thought. Jordan continues:
YEs, mobile crisis will move part of the problem. Have you thought about all of the problems it will solve? Reduced jail bookings, reduced ER visits, reduced involuntary commitments, and for those who are committed, reduced time of commitment. Check the research related to this in peer reviewed, published articles.
It is easy to sit back and heckle subject matter experts and electeds, from local and nationwide networks. Simply because you do not agree, does not mean that extreme care and planning was not involved in creating this AMAZING program.
It baffles me that folks like you both are not happy that something different is being done, even if you don’t think it’s perfect. It’s better than what we have now.
My question for the baffled Kristen Jordan is this: how are mobile crisis units supposed to reduce jail bookings and ER visits when there are NO SAFE ALTERNATIVES to the jail and the ER, like Dakota Place, available?
I will remind Jordan of her own quote here:
“We need a Dakota House (a Missoula-based crisis residential center) times 50. If the crisis can’t be resolved, we don’t want to take them to jail and we don’t want to take them to the hospital. They just need to go to some place for observation. We are going to fall short in that space,” Jordan said.
While Jordan and I appear to agree that this lack of infrastructure is a critical gap in services, that doesn’t stop her from finishing up her diatribe like this:
Did you know that the data collected from this pilot will be used to create a better program? How is that bad or wrong? Did you google something to try and make your point here? Are either of you data or policy analysts? Are either of you doing anything but complaining? Are either of you reaching out to electeds and agency executives to offer your “insight’? Are either of you doing anything other than sitting at your computers and heckling folks who get the big picture and are busting their butts to make necessary changes? Where do you get your expertise from? How do you know we need 24/7? Do you know what data analysis entails?
This blog does nothing but stir the poop pot of division in this community. I guess that’s what you need to do to get readers.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to engage in meaningful dialogue. I am available and happy to discuss all of the planning, analysis, engagement, and scope of this project.
I did reach out via email, but it was not productive.
I assume Kristen Jordan is a well-meaning person trying to do good work, but I don’t think she is all that savvy regarding the political dimensions of this issue. Having an alternative to the ER/jail was a major recommendation of the 10 year plan to end homelessness, so why are we still discussing this gap 8 years into that plan?
The mobile crisis unit will be gathering important data, we are told, but we are not told a time frame. Will it be before the mayoral election next year, or after? The answer to that question might help illuminate the political motivation behind this 8 month effort to address a problem this community has been talking about for over a decade.