Upcoming on PBS: The Definition of Insanity


National Initiative Updates

Be Well. Be Safe, and please share these wonderful resources as broadly as possible and remember to encourage as many as possible to sign up for these Behavioral health Alerts.

Upcoming on PBS: The Definition of Insanity The Miami-Dade Criminal Mental Health Project (CMHP) comes to life in this documentary, following a team of dedicated public servants working through the courts to steer people with mental illness — as their court cases hang in the balance — on a path from incarceration to recovery. Premiers April 14!

Research and Resources

Emergency Grants to Address Mental and Substance Use Disorders During COVID-19 The purpose of this SAMHSA grant program is to provide crisis intervention services, mental and substance use disorder treatment, and other related recovery supports for children and adults impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding will be provided for states, territories, and tribes to develop comprehensive systems to address these needs.


  • The applicant is the state, and each state is eligible to receive up to $2,000,000.
  • The deadline for applications is April 10
  • State judiciaries may want to contact your state behavioral health agency in order to provide input into the statement of need and proposed uses of the funds
  • For potential suggestions on collaboration and strategies for this emergency grant application, contact the NCSC by emailing Patti Tobias at ptobias@ncsc.org or Michelle O’Brien at mobrien@ncsc.org

COVID-19 Resources for Treatment Courts On March 26, NADCP and NCSC hosted a webinar on treatment courts and COVID-19. This webinar provided guidance on Federal, state, and local mandates and guidelines impacting treatment courts; The NCSC Preparing for a Pandemic: An Emergency Response Benchbook and Operational Guidebook for State Court Judges and Administrators; and Adapting treatment court operations during the COVID-19 crisis. This page also includes direction to register for a follow-up webinar, and links to other federal resources for treatment courts.

SAMHSA Training and Technical Assistance Related to COVID-19 Links to dozens of existing resources and to upcoming T/TA events. Additional updated SAMHSA COVID-19 related resources are here.

COVID-19 Resources for the Field of Deflection Another comprehensive list of resources, this one collated by the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTACC).

COVID-19: Behavioral Health Core Crisis Continuum as Essential Services Don’t assume that behavioral health crisis services will be considered “essential.” This resource makes the argument, and helps providers argue, that they are. Accessible and free mental health crisis services represent vital services during the current COVID-19 outbreak. “When individuals may be experiencing heightened anxiety, depression, and stress caused by infectious disease outbreaks and accompanying social isolation measures, having access to trained, caring counselors may be critical for a community’s mental well-being.

COVID-19 Resources: Consolidated for the Affordable Housing, Homelessness, Behavioral Health and Disability Services Sectors This recently updated TAC compendium of relevant federal resources consolidates important information from the federal government and other sources related to Medicaid, behavioral health and disability services, and housing/homelessness to assist state and local governments and providers in responding to COVID-19.

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Weekly Update March 20 edition. Includes numerous pandemic related resources.

White Paper: Remote Best Practices for Community Supervision This paper looks at how community supervision can transition to remote supervision in response to COVID-19. It examines the issues faced by community supervision programs, the elements of successful supervision programs, the elements of a successful remote culture, and the tenets of a successful remote supervision program.

Announcing the Crisis Response Models Virtual Learning Community SAMHSA’s GAINS Center will host a series of webinars and discussion groups around the topic of crisis response services. Hear from subject-matter experts and local programs on innovative ways to ensure that community crisis services are robust and effective.

Partner Webinar Series on the Power of Peer Support: Integrating Peer Support to Expand the Workforce for Individuals with Behavioral Health Challenges Part II of this series (upcoming) will delve into the practical application of using persons with lived experience in pre-arrest diversion, during incarceration, and for reentry-related services.

Planning to Prevent Relapse? A New Tool Can Help The tool helps corrections, supervision, and treatment provider staff support people with addictions in the criminal justice system. Specifically, the tool provides guidance on how to identify people who need relapse prevention plans, develop tailored plans in collaboration with other agencies and the individual’s support network, and implement these plans and respond if a person does relapse.

CSG Justice Briefing This snapshot will feature trending criminal and juvenile justice research, stories, events, and more.

State of Justice Trending criminal justice news and opinions from across the 50 states, presented by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center.

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020 This Prison Policy Initiative report provides a detailed look at where and why people are locked up in the U.S., and dispels some modern myths to focus attention on the real drivers of mass incarceration, including exceedingly punitive responses to even the most minor offenses.

TAC RESEARCH WEEKLY: March Research Roundup Includes a datapoint of the month: 555,000 inmates in correctional institutions in the United States who have not been convicted or sentenced for a crime, and research of the month, about the availability of telepsychiatry in US mental health facilities.

Free Webinar: The Critical Role of Mentors in Veterans Treatment Courts This webinar will address the importance of using best practices for implementing a mentor program. In addition, it will provide vital information about how to access mentoring resources, including Justice For Vets' recently developed online training modules and a training curriculum specifically designed for mentor coordinators.

Engaging Clients in Treatment: Combining MRT With MAT for Opioid Use Disorder Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT®) has been recognized as the premier cognitive-behavioral program for substance abuse treatment and offender populations for more than 30 years. In 2019, Dr. Greg Little and Dr. Ken Robinson developed a workbook titled What Do I Do Now? to be used specifically for opioid pretreatment. This webinar will feature program facilitators Lee Ann Lazarony and Kristy Holland of Chautauqua County, New York sharing their experiences with clients working through the program.

A Toolkit for Legislative Reform: Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Mental Illness in Rural States Many rural Americans are in desperate need of mental health care. Individuals in rural areas experience mental health concerns at similar (and sometimes higher) rates as those living in urban areas. Yet, rural areas can be dense with poverty and unemployment, as well as stressors that can contribute to high rates of depression, suicide, and other mental health concerns. Despite this need, those who live in rural areas face significant barriers in getting care. This toolkit is designed as a resource for rural states that want to take a statewide, legislative approach to improving criminal justice responses to mental illness.

NCSC/Safety and Justice Challenge Project: Overuse of Jails Across the country, courts and other criminal justice partners are looking at ways to identify the drivers of over-incarceration and engage a diverse set of stakeholders to determine ways to improve local systems. The Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) provides support to local leaders from across the country as they rethink jails with strategies that safely reduce jail populations and eliminate ineffective, inefficient, and unfair practices.

State Justice Institute Funding Toolkit for State Courts and Justice System Partners The initial phase of this project includes introducing the online toolkit that highlights funding opportunities, sample documents, access to virtual learning via webinars and podcasts, fact sheets, samples of successful applications, and answers to frequently asked questions. A webinar launching the initiative will be held on April 10.

In the News

A pandemic lesson on treating the mentally ill A floridly psychotic person with no insight into his mental illness, homeless on the streets of Miami without soap or sanitizer, contracts COVID-19. Is that grounds for involuntary commitment — and if so, where, for how long, and can it include forced medication? For those with serious mental illnesses who have as part of their brain disease a phenomenon called anosognosia — the inability to have insight into the illness — the likelihood that they will understand and react to symptoms of a virus and either self-isolate or get treatment is slim. Which means there will be serious tragedies, for them and for those in the community.

JAILS’ COVID-19 RESPONSE MUST SUPPORT PEOPLE WITH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CHALLENGES In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, criminal justice system players across the country are engaging in new or broadened management strategies. Many jails are releasing individuals who are medically at-risk and reducing jail bookings for non-violent and low-level offenders where possible. Likewise, court systems have settled some cases with guilty pleas, and released people who are being held on non-violent and low-level offenses. Police have also begun or increased issuing summonses in lieu of arrest for such offenses. However, many affected individuals are those with mental illness or other behavioral health challenges, and it is crucial that we do not simply send them back into the community without ensuring they have access to adequate treatment, services and support. The phrase “Divert to what?” has a new urgency during this challenging time.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, states and hospitals turn to telehealth There’s no way to know precisely how the demand on the crisis continuum and mental health services will increase in the United States, but it will likely be similar to what has transpired in communities during other disasters. Historically, there have been challenges for mental health workers to obtain reimbursement for audio-only telehealth, and he that “could continue to be a challenge in some states unless explicitly included in the governor’s emergency declarations.” In states that fully dive into telehealth, this may create a pathway to a different looking mental health system after COVID-19. “This has the potential to improve people’s access to the services they need now and in the future.”

Cuyahoga County officials will hold mass plea, bond hearings to reduce jail population over coronavirus concerns Cuyahoga County’s judges, sheriff and prosecutor have agreed to hold mass plea and bond reduction hearings to get as many people as possible out of the county’s jail to lessen the impact of a potential outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Retooling criminal justice responses for equity and continued public safety Cities have already begun to alter arrest and detention practices in order to support social or physical distancing and related measures in response to COVID-19. In many cases, these alterations continue efforts underway to retool local public safety efforts to rely less on high and disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates.

Los Angeles' watershed moment for mental illness advocacy On Super Tuesday, Los Angeles voters approved a seemingly small ballot measure that is a first step toward fixing our broken mental health system. Rather than build more jails, which are increasingly responsible for caring for Americans with Serious Mental Illness (SMI), the approved ballot initiative authorizes Los Angeles County's Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to develop a plan to reduce the jail population by improving mental health and drug abuse prevention, care, and treatment. It also gave the commission subpoena power to investigate complaints.

Law students say they don't get mental health treatment for fear it will keep them from becoming lawyers. Some states are trying to change that For decades, nearly every state has required law students to answer questions about their mental health treatment as part of the requirements before they can practice law. As a result of the practice, according to one study, 45% of law students said they would be discouraged from seeking mental health treatment for fear that it would negatively affect bar admission.

New York removed questions about mental health from the bar so law students will no longer suffer in silence "Today marks a historic step forward in addressing the ongoing mental health crisis in the legal profession," said New York State Bar Association President Henry M. Greenberg. "Future generations of New York lawyers no longer need to live in fear that bravely and smartly seeking treatment for mental health issues could one day derail their careers."

Supreme Court rules states can eliminate insanity defense The Supreme Court ruled that states can effectively eliminate the insanity defense for criminal defendants who suffer from mental illness. The 6-3 ruling holds that a Kansas law preventing the exoneration of defendants who claim a diminished mental state is not unconstitutional.