July 2021 Newsletter
A Message from
Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition
Executive Director,
Beya Thayer
Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition
The Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition works in collaboration with of our justice partners, service agencies and individual members to offer support to our community. We recognize the challenges that some people face when struggling with unmet mental health and substance abuse needs and understand that these challenges have the potential for people to intersect with the criminal justice system. We have come together as a coalition in Yavapai County because we want our community to know that we have hope. It is our pledge that our holistic, collaborative efforts will provide multiple opportunities for lives to transform; that, together, we are building a foundation for the future and stories of success. We aim to provide information and relevant content that is pertinent for you, your loved ones, and your organizations in an effort to increase awareness of issues and ensure access to available resources.
Through the collective efforts of our partnerships, we have deflected hundreds of arrests countywide, which is not only a cost savings to the County and taxpayers, but increases support and services to those in need. For those who have been arrested, the Reach Out program has supported thousands of individuals by connecting them directly to help from our social service and behavioral health partners, immediately upon release. By mitigating these arrests and supporting efforts such as Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), we are able to increase awareness and understanding when it comes to  law enforcement interacting with those living with mental illness. However, this is not our only focus. Knowing that behavioral health crises and the decisions that lead to justice involvement often stem from everyday stressors, the Coalition also dedicates efforts to ensuring that children, youth, families, individuals, service providers, and justice partners have access to the myriad of resources and support systems that are available.

To exemplify the work that is being done in the Coalition, we are speaking with our partners to share with you the stories of how this work has evolved since our inception. To share more about how the Coalition started, we spoke with Audrey Dorfman, a community member and advocate:
About 6 years ago, I shared how a former student was serving 15 years in prison at a meeting in which then Sheriff Mascher attended. I followed up with Sheriff Mascher and asked how the jail was handling people with mental health or substance abuse issues. With an acute awareness that this was an issue, and recognition that jails were established to keep people that committed serious crimes and are not treatment centers, came the creation of what is now the Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition. 
Sheriff Mascher understood from the beginning that top level people had to be brought in from county agencies because if they are on board, they can help bring together other community based agencies. Sheriff Mascher and Sheriff Rhodes really understood that.
At the beginning then Jail Commander David Rhodes explained that over 200,000 people are arrested and released in Arizona every year. The money that is spent is ridiculous. We do not want people with mental health substance abuse issues to be in jail when they really need support and services upfront so they don’t come back.
The first thing Sheriff Mascher did was develop the jail’s first mental health unit. That was going to be for inmates that had some challenges, that were stable, and they were either on medications or they did not need them. There was a willingness to go into the special cell blocks and we had 15-20 individuals in there. I went multiple times a week, meeting inmates and saying – Hey, what brought you here? What do you need? What can I do so you don’t come back? – I wasn't perceived as a threat because I wasn't in a uniform, they all knew I was retired, and they trusted me. For some of them, they needed GED support. Some of them had lost their IDs. I helped get them some necessary supports such as drivers licenses and social security cards. 
This was really the very beginning. Beya Thayer’s knowledge of AHCCCS from her previous job led Sheriff Masher to develop a contract with AHCCCS. When inmates come to jail, they could not use their AHCCCS since it is a federally paid insurance so their insurance was cancelled. Then, when they left jail, it would take 2-3 weeks to get them back on AHCCCS– which was crazy because then they were not able to get their meds and their appointments. With Beya working with Sheriff Mascher, he was able to contract with AHCCCS so that an incarcerated person’s insurance was just suspended and reinstated quickly after release.
There was state legislative interest in helping people with mental health issues who became incarcerated. Sheriff Mascher and Sheriff Rhodes went down to the Capitol and became involved legislatively. Senator Sylvia Allen introduced legislation which provided a million and a half dollars over three years to address mental health needs of those who are arrested. Therefore, Beya was hired, and that is how Reach Out started. Beya had a close relationship with Spectrum, Southwest, and West Yavapai and a history of helping with supporting Mobile Crisis teams from her previous work with Health Choice. She was asked to build on those relationships with Yavapai’s justice teams.
Sheriff Mascher and Sheriff Rhodes really understood that government and community based agencies have to work together. The reason we were able to get buy in from all sides is that you can talk about it from a social justice issue; these people are not criminals, they have an illness. It is really incredible where we are 6 years later. It really is the whole team. We work really well as a team. We all had to come out of the silos. Public safety agencies do not work alone, we need everybody. 
Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. Please connect with us and our partners online.
Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition| Website