Are Courts Designed to Handle Mental Health Issues?

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Task Force Activities

Are Courts Designed to Handle Mental Health Issues? Determining which court cases involving individuals with serious mental illness need to stay in the justice system and which cases can be diverted out of the courts or, even better, how communities can provide assistance before someone ever reaches the courts, is one of the top priorities of the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness. An @theCenter newsletter feature.

Research and Resources

The Definition of Insanity – Exploring a Revolutionary Approach to Solving the Mental Health Crisis This new website supports the PBS documentary The Definition of Insanity, which details the efforts of Task Force member Judge Steve Leifman and the “Miami Model.”

Effective Criminal Caseflow Management During and After the Pandemic The Court Consulting Services Division and the Research Division of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) will be providing its free remote and virtual consulting service “The Doctor Is In” from Mid- November to Mid- December.  Principal Court Management Consultant Patti Tobias and Principal Research Consultant Brian Ostrom will be available to provide you or a team with up to 60 minutes of free consulting and professional advice. Our experts can meet with you to discuss any issues concerning caseflow management, including “Improving Caseflow Management Practices, Policies and Procedures in the Courts and the Community addressing those with Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Disorders.” Contact Patti Tobias at

Texas Judicial Summit on Mental Health The Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health staged a two-day virtual summit on November 9-10. Resources for each of the sessions are available online.

Upcoming WEBINAR: Reporting from the Field on Competence to Stand Trial and Competence Restoration This 11/24 webinar, hosted by SAMHSA's GAINS Center, will provide information on the current national landscape of competence to stand trial (CST) systems, including commonly experienced challenges to providing timely restoration and various models and settings to consider in providing restoration. Key lessons learned from SAMHSA’s GAINS Center’s recent multistate collaborative learning project, the CST/CR Community of Practice, will be presented, including recommended implementation strategies across multiple Intercepts of the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM).

Game Changer: Implications of the Wit v. United Behavioral Health Ruling As the nation struggles to cope amid a myriad of challenges in 2020—the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustices, political divisiveness, and more—better access to mental health and addiction treatment is critical. How can we ensure the lessons of Wit regarding mental health and medical necessity extend beyond the courtroom into federal and state policy, health care coverage, and more? Join three experts in this free webinar to unpack ramifications of the landmark ruling and explore what’s on the horizon.

Free Motivational Interviewing Training for Treatment Court Team Members In partnership with the Center for Strength-Based Strategies, NADCP’s National Drug Court Institute is pleased to offer treatment court team members free, two-year access to the popular online training series “Motivational Interviewing (MI) for Treatment Courts.” This collection of 20 web-based courses is the most comprehensive series published for internet-based training in MI.

2021 Operational Tune-Up Applications Now Being Accepted Research confirms that ongoing training is critical to the success of treatment courts. Whether your program is new or experienced, this FREE training by NADCP will answer all your questions and improve your outcomes.

COSSAP Webinar: Making Data-Driven Decisions to Enhance your Diversion or Deflection Program This webinar will highlight how administrators of law enforcement-led and first responder diversion programs can apply evaluation recommendations to adjust program implementation for improved outcomes.

CSG Justice Center Newsletter Includes resources on rethinking competency to stand trial; upcoming events; funding opportunities; and more.

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Weekly Update A variety of current behavioral health resources, including the results of a 50 state survey of pandemic effects on Medicaid.

Cops, Clinicians, or Both? Collaborative Approaches to Responding to Behavioral Health Emergencies This NASMHPD policy paper reviews best practices for law enforcement (LE) crisis response, outlines the components of a comprehensive continuum of crisis care that provides alternatives to LE involvement and ED utilization, and provides strategies for collaboration and alignment towards common goals. Finally, policy considerations regarding legal statutes, financing, data management, and stakeholder engagement are presented in order to assist communities interested in taking steps to build these needed solutions.

Responding Effectively to Trauma Manifestations in Child Welfare Cases This article defines trauma and how it manifests in the dependency court system. Trauma often manifests as difficult behaviors in the dependency court world, but there is a lack of information for effective strategies to deal with it. This article discusses how families and professionals experience trauma in dependency court and provides tools rooted in a physiological understanding of trauma. It will help professionals notice and respond to trauma in themselves and others.

NCYOJ Eye on the Field This National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice newsletter includes a link to a Casey Foundation report Keeping Youth Out of the Deep End of the Juvenile Justice System, as well as information on upcoming webinars.

A Review of Literature on Mental Health Court Goals, Effectiveness, and Future Implications Mental health court evaluations generally show positive results when it comes to reducing recidivism and improving participant quality of life; however, limitations in research methodology reduce the validity of many studies. This article provides a review of literature on mental health courts, including court operations, effectiveness, and related issues.

BHive Newsletter – News, Resources and Learning Opportunities National Council for Behavioral Health newsletter highlights behavioral health resources.

Previewing the National SAMHSA SOAR Outcomes | SAMHSA SOAR eNews Over the last 15 years, the SOAR model has been used to assist 55,210 people who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness gain access to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability benefit programs.

Mental Health Technology Transfer Centers Mental Health Telehealth Survey Results Telehealth has expanded the ability of the MH workforce to provide services during the pandemic. Providers anticipate continuing to use telehealth services after the pandemic. Telehealth is shown to be supportive, productive, and useful in the MH workforce.

PTACC Ticker Wednesday, November 4th This Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative newsletter contains updates on deflection with PTACC: Tucson’s U-MATTER; Diversion a “promising practice”; Police-based Juvenile Diversion in Cambridge, MA.

Law Enforcement and Homelessness: Understanding our Past and Reforming our Future The Center for Court Innovation invites you to join law enforcement and housing policy experts in conversation with police executives as they discuss the relationship between police and people experiencing homelessness. November 17th webinar.

How ET3 Will Allow Earlier Diversion of People In Mental Health Crisis The new voluntary five-year payment model allows ambulance services to divert lower-acuity medical cases and psychiatric crises to facilities that better match the person’s needs instead of defaulting to the hospital ED. ET3 (Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport) is particularly good news for the mental health community because it could adequately address the ambulance-to-hospital pipeline that has been highly problematic for psychiatric emergencies, leading to unnecessary and expensive ED visits and inpatient hospitalization.

Looking to Replace Police with Crisis Response Teams? Consider These Lessons Learned from the Military Many cities are exploring how to cut police funding and replace some law enforcement officers with teams of social workers and other specialists. The shortcomings of teams of social scientists deployed by the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan can provide some valuable insights into the kind of mistakes to avoid.

In the News

Dr. Matthew L. Goldman says if not implemented properly, 988 is no more than rebranding Communities need to buckle down now to ensure that 988, the three-digit number the FCC designated to mirror 911 for mental health and suicide crises, fulfills its potential when it launches nationwide in July 2022. What can transform 988 into a robust tool for advancing crisis systems, says Dr. Goldman, is implementation, funding, coordination, clinical best practices, and research and evaluation. “Otherwise,” says Dr. Goldman, “988 will be only a rebranding of 1-800-273-TALK, the number to the SAMHSA-funded National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.”

Who will be named new assistant secretary? Will SAMHSA continue focusing on serious mental illnesses? The Biden transition team already is in the process of compiling a list of potential candidates to replace Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Secretary of Health and Human Services for Mental Health and Substance Use.

‘It’s a cruel world, and I’m better off dead:' Manhattan Mental Health Court offers lifeline to those with serious mental illness — but they have to get in Only a handful of cases ever make it to Manhattan Mental Health Court, according to data provided by the district attorney — and that was before COVID-19 ground the city to a halt. Even pre-COVID, the mental health court moved at a plodding pace. In 2018, the office received 74 requests for referral. Of those, prosecutors consented to refer 43 cases — about 58% — and declined to refer the rest. In 2019, the office got 136 requests. They consented to 46 cases — about 34% — and declined to refer the remaining 90. “I would tell the judge, I’m not giving up on mental health court. But guess what? I have to give up because it’s up to [the DA]. And that’s a huge thing. It’s up to prosecutors and it shouldn’t be up to them.”

When going to the hospital is just as bad as jail A new lawsuit claims Black Americans with mental illness are being forced into traumatic emergency room stays. Many who have endured a short-term hospital stay say the experience of being held against their will in a psychiatric ward was as traumatizing as being arrested, and didn’t connect them with any follow-up treatment.

An Eastern Washington teen went to a mental health clinic for help. Eight days later, he died in a jail cell His family turned to a county-run mental health clinic for those in crisis as a last resort to get him treatment. But he didn’t get treated at the clinic. Instead, someone there called the police. Responding officers arrested him on misdemeanor warrants for driving with a suspended license and failing to transfer a vehicle title within 45 days.

Panels on criminal justice reform, pretrial justice, hone in on diversion tactics Members of the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission have finalized recommendations on mental health and substance abuse reform to reduce prison population, recidivism and corrections costs in the state. The commission approved recommendations to benefit state diversion programs and provide increased funding and access to local mental health facilities.

How mental health pros intervene on a 911 call — what didn’t happen for Walter Wallace Jr. When Philadelphia leaders released body camera footage from the police officers who fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man who was having a mental breakdown when he was killed, they also announced planned crisis response reforms to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

From police procedures to outdated laws to systemic racism, experts say the odds are stacked against Pennsylvanians like Walter Wallace Jr. Before Walter Wallace Jr. died at the hands of Philadelphia police, his need for mental health services seemed apparent. During his past interactions with the criminal justice system — Wallace had been convicted and jailed for assault and robbery — judges repeatedly tried to get him mental health treatment. His family said that when they called 911 on the afternoon of Oct. 26, they had wanted an ambulance to come.

New York City tests replacing police with EMTs for 911 calls about mental health crises The city saw a wave of protests this summer calling for major changes in how the police operate. Now it’s the latest city to embrace the use of medical and mental health professionals for certain 911 calls.

Santa Clara judge creates ‘gold standard’ for mental health courts Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen Manley refers to defendants in his courtroom as “clients” – an indication of the unusually informal and conversational tenor of the Behavioral Health Court he created more than two decades ago.

Catalyst - Treatment advocacy center fall newsletter Includes news about the psychiatric effects of the pandemic, mental illness reform in the news, and AOT.

State of Justice newsletter Idaho parole officers use new app to work with those on supervision; examining gaps in Utah's criminal justice reform effort, and a look at COVID-19 infections in Montana and Wisconsin prisons.

Many in criminal justice system need mental health treatment, but resources are strained In South Carolina and across the country, there is an increased demand for mental health services. For those facing criminal charges who need evaluation and treatment, that demand is growing harder to meet. A person with mental health issues in the criminal justice system is often dependent on state resources to ensure a fair ruling. But as requests for psychiatric evaluations and treatment grow, so does the cost, and the system that protects such defendants is, at times, overburdened.

Ohio rolls out service to match patients with beds in psychiatric facilities The state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is rolling out a new online psychiatric bed registry, dubbed Behavioral Health Connection or B-Con, which was developed to give clinicians a real-time view of where there are bed openings. The tool is expected to be used in emergency departments, as well as by psychiatrists and other providers. Users are able to access the platform for two-way communication, data aggregation, analytics and decision-support resources.

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