In this committee, we designed the future of our state's mental health delivery system. We described the issues that we are seeing at the provider level and at the ground level, the first responder level. These perspectives were critical to ensure that moving forward, we were able to have positive impact on an issue that continues to degrade at an alarming rate.
I liken my involvement in this movement to the efforts to improve the intersection at C-57 and Hwy 218. We went from not being on the Iowa DOT's 5 year plan to me getting fed up enough to simply start speaking out... to getting involved and offering to speak to the DOT Commission at one of their meetings. I presented photos of the fatal accidents that we had worked during the previous couple of years and had those commissioners feel what we felt as first responders know that we were still going to go on for years more responding to that intersection without change. We improved that to an overpass and were placed on their list of projects not in 5 years but construction started in 2 years after that presentation. By working passionately on something (not just talking about it), you can get things done. I am running again, because I still have projects that need to get done!
By investing in training, all other administrative tasks become easier. By focusing on the importance of training, and by championing training, the culture of an organization improves, and over time, those who embrace the training, the administrative approaches and the expectations and reasons for the training plan, the less problems and issues those officers/employees experience.
Whether we are focusing on the importance of interacting with our mentally ill population where we have invested considerable amounts of training time in CIT (Crisis Intervention Training), Mental Health First Aid Training, Trauma Informed Training, Alzheimer/Autism Awareness Training, LOST (Loved Ones Safe Together) Training, or working on those general skills like weapons accuracy, self-defense, and driving skills training. Each of these disciplines require time, equipment, staff, certifications, and continuing budget investment to make that training a reality. These commitments simply do not just happen, they are carefully planned and executed over a long-range and near-term planning schedule that our training division and our administrative team manage based on real issues and situations that are happening around the nation. We monitor judicial decisions in real-time. We evaluate changing training platforms, and we invest in trainer and instructor certifications that increase the value and the importance of the training that we expose our staff to. In addition to this common investment, we also invest in a lot of technology that is intended to make our employees more proficient, efficient, and better adapt in a myriad of situations. This technology also requires a considerable investment in training. All of this effort ensures that our agency is more progressive, more professional, and more effective in our overall incident management efforts. The ultimate goal being to provide the very best service in the most efficient manner possible to our constituents, time after time.
Now, our jail officers are attending more training than ever before. Through technology, we have improved the quality of video recording, we have added process and procedures that ensure we have fewer problems within the housing areas. We have invested in the division to ensure that the employees and the facility is operating at its highest potential. We have used inmate labor to make maintenance and routine improvements on the facility to reduce taxpayer funding for upkeep of the facility as well. We utilize a 20-fold increase in jail programming to ensure that inmates are not just kept out of society, but they are educated, mentored, and worked with to help reduce the rate of recidivism in our facility in the future. Examples of the programming now available to inmates of the Black Hawk County Jail:
-GED or HSED (General Education Development/High School Equivalency Diploma)
-BEP (Batterer's Education Program)
-Faith-based Substance Abuse Programming-Bible Study/Church Services
-Life Skills Programming
-Faith-based Re-entry Programming
-Mental Health Group Programming
-Inmate Work Crew Programming
-NA/AA (Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous)
As a result of this increased focus and effort, our jail grievances, lawsuits, and negative incidents have dramatically reduced (to near non-existence) over the past 12 years. We do continue to assess our policies, our procedures, and our efforts to ensure that we are reflecting the most professional image, the most responsible application of our resources, and ensure that our operation is always above and beyond reproach in such a manner that the citizens of Black Hawk County can be justifiably proud. As promised, January 2, 2009 the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office once again began employing inmate work crews. Since those first cold winter days, this program has increased its impact and services provided. Inmates have worked in jail laundry, maintained jail floors, jail trash removal, re-painted the housing areas of the jail, filled potholes for the city of Waterloo, filled sandbags in preparation for flooding, painted swing sets and park equipment, mowed lawns, trimmed trees, weeded flowerbeds, worked in our city and county parks, and cleaned trash out of roadside ditches.