Millage Funded Programs
In November 2017, Washtenaw County residents voted two-to-one in favor of an eight-year millage that would generate $12 - $15 million per year for mental health and public safety improvements beginning in January 2019.
Washtenaw County Community Mental Health oversees the investment of mental health dollars through its Millage Advisory Committee. The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office oversees the use of public safety dollars.
The WCSO is using millage funding to enhance functions that have been historically underfunded. Millage dollars also allow for flexible spending—enabling the county to serve a wider range of individuals with varying degrees of unmet social needs.
You’ll find more detail about millage-funded initiatives here:
Diversion and deflection programs
Local police contracting
Emergency services and dispatch
Diversion and deflection programs
Diversion and deflection programs divert low-risk offenders with social needs away from the criminal justice system and into more appropriate community care. While the WCSO operated diversion and deflection programs prior to the millage, the county’s efforts received a significant boost with millage funds.
Diversion and deflection programs can be mapped to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Sequential Intercepts for Change (SIM) model (SAMHSA, 2022). The SIM model identifies six points where traditional criminal justice proceedings can be met with community based care. These points include: (0) prevention; (1) law enforcement and emergency services; (2) hearings and detentions; (3) jails and courts; (4) re-entry from jails; and (5) community corrections.
In Washtenaw County, millage funds are used to stand up or expand diversion and deflection programs such as:
LEADD. With millage funding, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and Deflection initiative launched in 2021 in Ypsilanti Township, giving officers alternatives to citation, arrest, and incarceration. Operating as a pre-arrest diversion program, it requires deputy sheriffs to connect individuals suspected of low-risk, low-level criminal offenses with specially trained, community-based case managers. Currently, individuals can be referred into the program by deputy sheriffs, but the program is exploring a social referral model where community members could refer individuals to the program as well.
Community corrections. Washtenaw County’s Community Corrections department provides alternatives to incarceration for individuals in the criminal justice system, overseeing persons convicted of a crime outside of jail or prison. Specifically, the department supports pretrial services and individuals on probation. With millage funds, the department is able to support a wider range of individuals that would not be able to engage with community corrections programming without flexible millage dollars—including those with only misdemeanor charges and those engaged with the district court. Community Corrections activities and programs include assessments to determine risk before arraignments, anger management programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more.
Community outreach. The WCSO’s Community Outreach Team works with people with previous offenses to prevent them from re-offending. Operating since 2009, the program hires individuals who have been involved with the criminal justice system. As experts with lived experience, the team asks them to use their street credibility, relationships, and trust to build and restore their neighborhoods. In return, staff receive training and support to invest in themselves, thereby reducing the likelihood of re-offending. The team helps people get linked with substance use treatment, housing, educational workshops, and more. Data shows that this team works, with 63 percent of the jail population returning to jail while only 6 percent of those involved in the community outreach program have returned to jail.
In 2022, the millage-funded reentry services team provided more than 600 reentry-specific services to jail residents, 20 percent of whom screened positive for serious mental illness and 25 percent of whom screened positive for substance use disorders. Re-entry programs:
Identify MHSUD and other psychosocial needs early. Screenings are administered within two weeks of incarceration to learn what each jail resident will need for successful community reentry. Needs often include employment, housing, ongoing mental health or substance use disorder support services, and essential documents like ID cards, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses.
Connect jail residents to critical programs and support services. Screeners also encourage people to enroll in appropriate jail-based programming, like substance use treatment, GED/high school completion, mutual aid groups (like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous), religious services, and more. The reentry team begins to line up these services and programs immediately.
Establish a detailed and thoughtful reentry plan for jail residents. Reentry planning happens in the last two months of a person’s planned release. A cross-disciplinary team of staff–including service providers, care coordinators, and peer outreach workers–helps residents obtain medical prescriptions, including prescriptions for mental health and substance use conditions, referrals to community-based treatment programs, safe and stable housing, and vital documents.
Beyond what’s classified as general reentry services, grant and millage funds have made it possible to develop and launch new programs and partnerships. These include:
Case management. Through an elective pilot program for individuals with significant needs, the reentry team can provide help with family reunification, sustainable independence, and other goals for up to 12-months after release.
Housing vouchers. In partnership with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the WCSO can provide housing choice vouchers to people who participate in case management who have been identified as homeless.
Occupational therapy. A life skills group is open to anyone in the jail, and the curriculum includes everything from budgeting and time management to health and wellness. Those who receive case management can also receive occupational therapy, as needed.
Reentry 101 and Housing 101 groups. Facilitated groups help people think about community resources that are available to them, such as supportive housing and drug treatment, and learn how to register for and navigate those resources.
In addition to Deflection, Diversion, and Reentry programs, millage funds are used to expand or develop numerous programs across Washtenaw County which explore alternatives to police response, work with those at risk of criminal justice involvement, and engage community members and organizations. These include:
Crisis Negotiation Team. Washtenaw County’s Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) is a dispatch team that began in 2009 and is now staffed with both Sheriff’s Office and Community Mental Health staff, thanks to millage funding. The team is trained to respond when road patrol deputies and police officers encounter an individual in a mental health crisis and need help de-escalating the situation. Whether it’s a barricaded individual, a suicidal individual, or another agitated individual, the team aims to resolve the situation peacefully.
Sure Moms. Sisters United Resilient and Empowered (SURE) is a peer support group for mothers of youth with juvenile justice involvement. The group meets weekly for facilitated discussions, educational programs, workshops, and community. The focus: providing a space for moms to listen, encourage, teach, and learn from each other’s experience while giving back to and engaging with their community. Recently, SURE Moms has added a support group for young girls in Ypsilanti schools.
WeLive. WeLive is a violence interruption group started in 2022. The group works with survivors of violence immediately after the incident, often in the emergency room, to understand the nature of the incident and help people develop conflict resolution and de-escalation skills. The aim? To reduce the likelihood that survivors return to the community and retaliates or perpetuates violence.
Co-response unit. The Co-Response Unit (CRU) is a collaborative effort between the Sheriff’s Office and Community Mental Health, launched in 2022. The collaborative engages a social worker and a deputy who work together, driving in one car, to ensure they arrive at the scene at the same time to provide the most appropriate response for individuals in need. The unit may respond to incidents like suicide attempts, wellness checks if the individual is suspected to be violent, overdoses, and more.