Corrections Checklist Helps Support Reentry during Pandemic


National Initiative Updates

It is more important than ever during this pandemic to stay connected to resources and information to improve the justice system response to those with mental illness and co-occurring disorders.  Subscribe here to receive the Behavioral Health Alerts newsletter and remember to distribute these Alerts as widely as possible in your state and community.

Research and Resources

Corrections Checklist Helps Support Reentry during Pandemic The Council of States Governments (CSG) Justice Center worked with the National Sheriffs’ Association to develop a concise checklist that assists reentry planners and correctional staff in the transition planning process. The checklist is designed to be a starting place for reviewing the myriad factors staff should consider as they prepare people for reentry, including engaging in COVID-19 best practices, navigating legal considerations, and determining if someone has basic or health needs.

Improving Responses to People Who Have Co-occurring Mental Illnesses and Substance Use Disorders in Jails People with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders have complex needs that require integrated responses across jails and behavioral health systems. However, staff often do not know how many people with co-occurring disorders reside in the jail or do not know how to respond when they recognize the symptoms. This CSG Justice Center brief outlines how jail administrators and staff can improve their responses to this population by implementing practices that focus on identification and provision of services: conducting standard screening and assessment for both, linking people to services through collaborative comprehensive case management, and assessing effectiveness through regular performance measurement tactics.

Release to What? Behavioral Health-Based Strategies to Address COVID-19 This Policy Research Associates report provides a series of recommendations, organized across the Sequential Intercept model, for jails and prisons releasing individuals with complex mental health needs, substance use disorders, and medical and housing vulnerabilities to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AOT Learning Modules Released This week, the Treatment Advocacy Center, in partnership with the American Psychiatric Association (APA), launched an eight-part series of online learning modules on assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). The modules are now available to the public through SMI Adviser, an open-access mental health resource library for providers and others seeking to help individuals with serious mental illness (SMI).

COVID-19 Telehealth Medicaid Expansions States are relaxing Medicaid regulations around telehealth during COVID-19. Click on your state on the interactive map to get the most recent information.

Grants Matrix: State-Administered Federal Funds that can Support Court Access to Justice and Technology Innovations This Grants Matrix features high-level summaries of federal block/formula/open-end reimbursement funds (AKA pass-through funds) administered by state (and sometimes local) agency decision-makers that can include court recipients. These state-administered federal funds can support a range of court-based services, including supported self-help (e.g., court navigators, online legal information, and plain language fillable forms), as well as court partnerships with civil legal aid organizations to develop technology tools, and to provide brief counsel and advice, limited, and/or full representation. Most of the featured funds can also be used for technology that improve remote access to the courts and the delivery of civil legal assistance or legal information.

The Coronavirus Crisis and the Criminal Justice System The Brennan Center has compiled policy and advocacy responses detailing how different levels of the criminal justice system are responding to this public health crisis. This includes ways in which law enforcement, prosecutors, criminal courts, corrections agencies, and immigration agencies can better safeguard their communities and the broader public during this pandemic.

Stepping Up for COVID-19: Resources & Information The Stepping Up partners have curated this list of resources for community leaders and professionals on the front lines of the pandemic.

Remote Best Practices for Community Supervision In 2006, APPA pointed out that community supervision is a “human capital-intensive activity”—correctly asserting that people are the core resource of community supervision. Then APPA was unconvinced that there was a technological tool that could meet the needs of community supervision; however, things have changed.

Role of Mandated Community Treatment for Justice Involved Individuals with Serious Mental Illness This study suggests that court oversight on an ongoing basis may be necessary to help justice-involved individuals with a serious mental disorder avoid the criminal justice system and remain engaged in community treatment. More research is needed to determine whether these findings can be extrapolated to civil commitment procedures.

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Weekly Update May 15 edition.

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Weekly Update May 8 edition.

Updated SAMHSA COVID-19 TTA Resources This revised and updated list of COVID-19 resources includes notices for upcoming webinars, links to partner sites, and other resources.

SAMHSA Headlines Information on funding opportunities, webinars, news and new guidance from SAMHSA, including Guidance for Law Enforcement and First Responders Administering Naloxone.

COVID-19 Resources for SOAR Providers Across the country, SOAR providers have been developing new and innovative methods to engage applicants and complete Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications during the COVID-19 pandemic. This resource link provides answers to many common pandemic related SOAR questions.

ABA Commission On Lawyers Assistance Programs: COVID-19 Mental Health Resources A comprehensive list of mental health resources for the legal profession during COVID-19.

Judging Risk This California Law Review Article explores the judging of risk assessment and why decision-makers so often fail to consistently use quantitative risk assessment tools. (Westlaw link)

Warren County Prosecutor-Led Mental Health Diversion Program The purpose of this research was to further understand of the applications of prosecutor-led diversion and its potential impact on defendants with histories of mental illness and/or substance abuse, particularly in rural settings. (Westlaw link)

Recognizing the Need for Mental Health Reform in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Based on its potentially devastating effects on Texas communities, there is a dire need for societal and legal adjustments in the mental health realm, especially as it interacts with criminal justice systems. St. Mary’s Law Journal. (Westlaw link)

In the News

For Mentally Ill Defendants, Coronavirus Means Few Safe Options Across the country, even before the COVID-19 crisis, criminal defendants in need of competency restoration have often waited weeks or months in county jails for a hospital bed to open up. But the pandemic has stalled many cases even further, trapping some individuals in jails as hospitals try to wall themselves off from new infections.

The State of Serious Mental Illness in the U.S. Has Always Been a Dangerous Crisis In America, a large majority of people with SMI ultimately end up in our two universal catchalls: jails and the streets. Incarceration is generally a dangerous proposition for people with SMI — not to mention a terrible place to provide psychiatric care. But in the midst of a pandemic already seeing outbreaks at correctional facilities never designed to meet social distancing requirements, relying on jails as a substitute for mental health treatment is unconscionable.

Double Jeopardy: COVID-19 and Behavioral Health Disparities for Black and Latino Communities in the U.S. This SAMHSA paper concludes that given the existing impediments to care for Blacks and Latinos due to social determinants of health, the COVID-19 pandemic will place those with behavioral health problems at even higher vulnerability. Blacks and Latinos have lower access to needed treatment, often terminate treatment prematurely, and experience less culturally responsive care.

VA Braces for Surge in Mental Health Demand The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its partner mental-health providers have kept thousands of veterans in treatment during the coronavirus pandemic through telehealth appointments. But as job losses and increased social isolation take an extended toll, some veterans’ advocates worry the already understaffed VA medical facilities can’t keep up and that telehealth isn’t enough.

COVID-19 and Advocacy—The Good and the Unacceptable In a new “From the President” column, American Psychiatric Association (APA) President Dr. Jeff Geller details the mental health issues that the APA should be prioritizing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miami-Dade Criminal Mental Health Program: A Best Practice Model As we navigate through the treacherous waters of this pandemic, we thankfully can derive solace from the great good that is happening in key places. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project (CMHP), Miami-Dade, Florida, is one such area of great opportunity.

Pew Announces $6.8M in Grants Supporting Philadelphia Region's Vulnerable Adults The Pew Charitable Trusts announced that it will provide $6.8 million over the next three years to 38 Philadelphia-area nonprofits serving some of the region’s most vulnerable adults, including those struggling with homelessness, mental health issues, and extended unemployment. The funding will help organizations address these residents’ critical needs, including those related to and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bridges Gap Between Police and the Community In its first year, the program was able to provide services to over 200 people, diverting those in need away from the criminal justice system and unnecessary hospitalizations and into the behavioral health system. Still in its early stages, the partnership is already helping CRPD officers begin to refocus their efforts on people and crimes that require police attention, while still providing that initial support for individuals with behavioral health needs.

The Importance of Peer Support A Safety and Justice Challenge blog post regarding the role peer support can play. Peer support is an effective and helpful approach that can divert people with mental illness and substance use issues from the criminal justice system. When implemented correctly, it can be a formidable force. It also has the potential to vastly reduce jail populations, in line with the goals of the Safety and Justice Challenge.

Even the Guards Knew She Didn’t Belong in a Jail Cell Last summer, Shawna Thibodeau spent 45 days in a jail cell by herself, terrified and confused. She was arrested in early June for stealing a necklace from a home in Oakland, where she’d moved after her former residence, a group home, suddenly shut down. With an intellectual disability she faced month more in jail. How a Maine court created a new path out.

Charleston’s Veterans Court Started Last Year. Now, it’s Grown and Continues Amid COVID-19 Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, where many court sessions have been dismissed or delayed, the treatment program keeps a routine schedule. After all, structure is key to military life. The meetings now happen on Zoom. Participants are given smartphones through the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of the program and can have video conferencing meetings. The judge was worried at first that some veterans would lose progress during the pandemic. But the participation has been overwhelmingly positive.

SAMHSA: Creating a System of Care That Meets the Needs of People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders HHS Assistant Secretary Dr. McCance-Katz reviews the work SAMHSA has undertaken in recent years.

TAC's Spring 2020 Catalyst Newsletter This Treatment Advocacy Center newsletter contains articles on Assisted Outpatient Treatment, psychiatric boarding, and a ride-along with Tucson’s co-responder team.

Held Without A Hearing, Imprisoned Without Being Convicted: Lawsuits Question Treatment of Individuals With Mental Illnesses In New Hampshire two separate lawsuits are challenging current practices regarding psychiatric boarding, and about placing defendants considered dangerous in a maximum security prison because there are no secure units at the state mental hospital.