MARQUETTE — Pathways Community Mental Health was one of five pilot sites across the state of Michigan chosen to receive a grant to help with expansion and training.

The two areas of focus for the funding are CIT and MRT training — Moral Recognition Therapy and Crisis Intervention Teams, respectively. The goal in expanding those two areas is to decrease recidivism rates for people with mental illnesses.

“What they really need, rather than jail, if they have a mental illness, might be treating that mental illness,” Pathways jail diversion liaison Tami LeBlanc said. “When you lower recidivism rates, it’s a win-win situation: the county agencies are saving money, and people are getting the treatment that they need, when they need it and where they need it.”

MRT targets individuals who have exhibited a habit of criminal thinking, or those with substance abuse issues co-occurring with mental illness.

CIT focuses on training law enforcement officials to better handle field situations involving those with mental illnesses. It will help take the skill set that already exists in Marquette County and bring it to another level.

“What this allows them to do is to not only work more efficiently in a way that they can get people linked to the level of care that they need in the moment, but it can also really help to keep everybody safe,” Pathways crisis services supervisor Lynn Johnson said.

Many models regarding jail recidivism are developed in urban areas. Marquette is the only rural community pilot site.

“That will allow other parts of Michigan that are more sparsely populated to figure out how they can tweak some of these things so that it fits,” Johnson said.

By tackling the issue from both sides — MRT training for the clinicians and CIT training for law enforcement — the ultimate goal, again, is to better help those with mental illness.

LeBlanc said, “The bottom line is trying to target those individuals that have a mental illness; how best to, for law enforcement, to deal with those people, and getting them the treatment that they need as opposed to sitting in a jail cell when that’s not really meeting their needs.”

Pathways received almost $50,000 and will expand its programs further in 2015.