NCSC Offers “Virtual Doctor Is In” Sessions


National Initiative Updates

NCSC Offers “Virtual Doctor Is In” SessionsWith the COVID-19 pandemic events, courts face many challenges and are rethinking court operations. To assist, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is offering The Virtual Doctor Is In free consultations during the weeks of May 4-8 and May 11-15. Our NCSC experts can provide you or your team up to an hour of free consultation regarding any issues that your court may be facing.

Suggested topic areas for The Doctor Is In sessions are: Court Management and Operations, Leadership and Governance, Access to the Courts, Children and Families, Mental Illness and the Courts, Data Statistics and Research and Technology. Please contact Kent Kelly at if you are interested in scheduling a one-on-one telephonic or video consultation session with one of NCSC’s experts. You will be asked to provide a topic you wish to discuss. NCSC experts will then contact you to schedule a virtual consultation.

What's the Effect of a Pandemic on Competency Proceedings? We asked a group of trial judges from around the country about their experiences, and here’s what they said. Short answer – it depends.

Leading Change: Improving the Court and Community’s Response to Mental Health and Co-Occurring Disorders Meaningful system change requires leadership. Courts, and judges in particular, are in a unique position to convene stakeholders and to lead such a group to consensus and action. The Leading Change Guide has been rewritten and updated with resources developed during the first year of the National Initiative to allow courts and judges to provide that leadership.

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Research and Resources

Telepsychiatry Toolkit APA's Telepsychiatry Toolkit — developed by the APA Work Group on Telepsychiatry — is an evolving resource for members who want to learn about the various aspects of telepsychiatry, including clinical, training, and policy considerations.

Challenges and Priorities in Responding to COVID-19 in Inpatient Psychiatry Inpatient psychiatric settings present unique challenges due to open space units, patient population, close contact for treatment. In many psychiatric units, patients are free to move and interact with other patients. It can be difficult to isolate patients with behavioral dysregulation from symptoms of active mania and psychosis.

PRA: Resources to Respond to COVID-19 for Criminal Justice, Behavioral Health, and Homelessness Service Providers In response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to the criminal justice, behavioral health, and homelessness service systems, Policy Research and its projects have developed the following resources to enhance service delivery during this difficult time.

COVID-19 Court Resources The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) along with the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) has created a series of webinars to help courts as they transition to virtual. The series—Lights, Camera, Motion—looks at what platform features are needed for courts, security and confidentiality issues, connectivity questions, and others. Recordings of the first two parts of the webinar are available and registration for the third is open.

Webinar Recordings:

NCSC, CCJ, and COSCA have also produced supplemental materials to assist courts in moving virtual.

National Council for Behavioral Health Resources and Tools for Addressing Coronavirus (COVID-19)

MTM Services COVID-19 Resources These free videos were developed by MTM to help providers meet the challenges caused by COVID-19.

SAMHSA Training and Technical Assistance Related to COVID-19 Updated list of TTA opportunities.

Why Quality Legal Representation Matters for Families Affected by Substance Use Disorders This webinar will explore the attributes of quality legal representation for parents involved in child welfare proceedings. Although all legal professionals serve an important role on a family treatment court (FTC) team, parent attorneys play a critical role to ensure reasonable efforts are made on behalf of families affected by substance use disorders to have access to quality services to prevent removal and support timely reunification and permanency. Attendees will learn how FTC teams and their parent attorney partners can work together toward a shared vision of accountability for families involved in the FTC and child welfare system.

Pandemic Doesn’t Stop the APA: Virtual Meeting Highlights Although not a replacement for the 173rd American Psychiatric Annual Meeting, the Spring Highlights Meeting, a free live event with more than 3000 attendees, touched on several important areas in psychiatry on April 25 and 26, 2020. Links to sessions and materials are included.

Patients With SMI in the Age of COVID-19: What Psychiatrists Need to Know Psychiatrists taking care of people with serious mental illness need information about changed vulnerabilities and unique treatment requirements of this population during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as what new or changed resources are available to them.

Breaking the Cycle of Frequent Repeat Offenders: Identifying and Diverting ‘Super-Utilizers’ Saves on Resources, Reduces Jail Overcrowding For offenders whose criminal behavior is linked to their substance abuse, mental health issues and residential instability, continual incarceration may not be an effective response for intervention. This article presents a new tool for identifying high-risk and high-need offenders for treatment, which helps redirect nonviolent offenders from a life of repeated incarcerations.

Cellblock Door Visits: They Are Not ‘House Calls’ Concern: Mentally ill inmates can be frustrating, as many refuse medications and exist in their ‘own world’. However, they are still people, with limited protections under the U.S. Constitution, as put forth by statute, case law and correctional standards. Mental illness is a sickness-it cannot be cured, just managed. Mentally ill inmates, especially in restraints must not be ignored, even in segregation, on restraints and/or on high observation.

Trauma Informed Treatment Courts Webinar Research has drawn strong correlations between trauma and substance use disorders, raising the issue of what our treatment courts can do to be trauma-informed. In this 1.5 hour webinar, Judge Shaun Floerke and Dr. Chris Wilson will set the stage for participants with a brief overview of the impact of trauma on the brain, from both a neuropsychological and evolutionary perspective, and then provide several concrete ways a treatment court team can be trauma informed. The focus of the 90 minutes will be on the practical implementation of the science.

Policy Reforms Can Strengthen Community Supervision: A framework to improve probation and parole The Pew Charitable Trusts, in partnership with Arnold Ventures, established the Advisory Council on Community Supervision to develop a policy framework for state lawmakers, court officers, and community corrections personnel. The council agreed on three broad goals for the next generation of community supervision: better outcomes for people on supervision, their families, and communities; a smaller system with fewer people on supervision; and less use of incarceration as a sanction for supervision violations, particularly breaches of the rules.

Medicare Telemedicine Health Care Provider Factsheet The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. This CMS factsheet summarizes all of the recent changes.

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Weekly Update April 24 edition. Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act opportunities, Medicaid state plan amendments, and more.

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Weekly Update May 1 edition. COVID-19 resources, CMS waiver announcements, and more.

SAMHSA Headlines Your one-stop source for the latest from SAMHSA.

SAMHSA's Upcoming Webinars SAMHSA's GAINS Center is covering essential topics through its upcoming national webinars and Data and Information Sharing Virtual Learning Community webinar series.

Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative (PTACC) Ticker for April 22 A broader take on health policy; ONDCP and CLOUD COVID-19 resources.

Accessing Federal Grants, Foundation Funds and Other Supplemental Resources: A Toolkit for Public Defenders Emphasis in this resource guide is on searching and applying for grants awarded by the federal government. However, much of the guidance provided is applicable to other funding agencies, both public and private. The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) provided training and technical assistance under the Initiative, in partnership with the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA).

Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Implementation The Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) is a multi-year initiative by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality of substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD), in high risk rural communities. This notice announces the opportunity to apply for funding under RCORP-Implementation.

The Myth of Legal Leverage? Toward a Relational Framework for Court-Based Treatment While the studies about the risk principle and dosage complicate our notion of effective treatment length, two other bodies of research point to human interaction, not time, as central to effectiveness. Studies of therapeutic intervention strongly suggest that the quality of the human interaction outweighs the importance of any particular protocol or approach.

Schizophrenia Research: COVID-19, Mobile Health, and Serious Mental Illness As the COVID-19 global pandemic rapidly expands, the potential of digital health for mental health has become urgently apparent. The surge in interest and use of digital health to meet the demands of patients in quarantine, with social and physical distancing restrictions, and a lack of in-person care has centered on anxiety and depression and largely ignored those with serious mental illnesses (SMI) such as psychotic disorders. Adapting digital health to the needs of SMI patients is an emergent need.

Mental Health and the Justice System Across Arizona, the court has taken a leadership role in improving its response to people experiencing mental illness. Nationally, the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) and National Center for State Courts have been urging courts to commit to improvements and decriminalize mental illness, stating that the judiciary’s unique vantage point make it an ideal force for convening community stakeholders to develop protocols and processes that better address how the courts administer justice for those with mental illness and co-occurring behavioral health conditions. Also available is a new mental illness awareness video.

Behavioral Healthcare Recommendations During Covid Perhaps the most urgent aspect of this crisis is the one receiving comparatively little attention: the increased strain on systems of care for those with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The frightening reality is that these systems have long been broken and are likely to become even more dysfunctional as the nation grapples with COVID-19.

Voluntariness of Treatment, Mental Health Service Utilization, and Quality of Life Among Mental Health Court Participants Although research has indicated that mental health court (MHC) participation is associated with positive criminal justice outcomes, it remains unclear whether and how MHC participation may improve participants' quality of life (QOL). Utilizing MacArthur MHC study data this study explored the relationships among MHC participation, perceived voluntariness of treatment, mental health services utilization, and QOL. 26 Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 185 (Westlaw link)

In the News

As Oregon State Hospital Limits Admissions During Pandemic, Mental Health Advocates Press for a Different Solution The Oregon State Hospital has reopened to patients waiting in county jails for mental health competency evaluation and restoration treatment, after temporarily halting those admissions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the new, slower admissions process has left dozens of defendants sitting in jail days or weeks longer than allowed under a 2002 federal court order. The ruling requires the state hospital to admit defendants ordered to mental health treatment within seven days of a judge making that decision.

An Arrest at St. Patrick’s, a Struggle for Help, Then a Suicide Mr. Lamparello’s death seems to highlight the fraying nature of psychiatric care for some people with mental illness who are being released from city jails as part of an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Why Psychiatric Wards Are Uniquely Vulnerable to the Coronavirus The coronavirus, and the public-health measures undertaken to slow its spread, is uniquely hostile to psychiatric care. An ordinary hospital unit is a lonely place: patients are generally in bed, in their rooms, physically distant from one another. By contrast, the prevention of solitude is built into the architecture of psych units and enshrined in the laws and regulations that govern them. Psychiatric units are often designed to facilitate communication and group activities; now, however, they seem as if they were designed to spread the virus.

Brooklyn Supreme Criminal Expands Operations to Include Non-essential Matters The borough’s “problem-solving courts,” the Brooklyn Mental Health Court and the Brooklyn Treatment Court, are both included in this expansion plan. The Mental Health Court is able to accept referrals by email to schedule remote evaluations from Department of Correction facilities via Skype. After reports are given to the judge and attorneys involved, the court has the capacity to schedule virtual pleas and defendants can potentially be placed into shelters and provided cell phones so that case managers can more easily monitor their progress.

In-person Contact on Hold for Those in Franklin County Specialty Courts Franklin County’s specialty courts have moved to Zoom meetings, private Facebook groups and frequent phone calls to replace the courtroom meetings that are seen as critical to the sense of community for participants struggling with addictions or mental-health problems.

Problem-solving Courts Added to Non-essential List for 20th Judicial Circuit Problem-Solving Courts status conference hearings and wellness checks have been added to the list of non-essential and non-critical proceedings that can be conducted remotely.

Counties to pay 100% of Mental Competency Treatment for Defendants In 2018, Lewis County paid $43,404 for one person with mental health issues going through County Court to receive treatment in a state in-patient facility so they could understand and participate in their legal proceedings. In Jefferson County, it took one person 313 days of in-patient treatment to make it back to court that year. The county’s bill amounted to $179,729.

Survey Shows Reentry Services Halting Across U.S. As community-based criminal justice practitioners navigate the new world of COVID-19, a majority of them are already halting the essential services they provide to help people returning from prison or jail reenter successfully. A survey of reentry service providers conducted by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center this month showed that 75 percent of 126 respondents said they had stopped providing some services or closed operation entirely since the rise of the pandemic.

Major Sam Cochran Says to Leaders, “Support and Keep Open Essential Mental Health Crisis Services” As communities struggle with COVID-19 and increasingly respond to emergency rules, Major Sam Cochran (ret.), co-chair of CIT International’s Board of Directors, said leaders must support and keep open essential mental health crisis services.

Readout of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Teleconferences Related to Social Problems Impacting Public Safety This week, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice held hearings on social problems impacting public safety, specifically mental illness.  The hearings were held over three days via teleconference.  Each teleconference featured a panel of expert witnesses who provided testimony and, subsequently, answered questions from the Commissioners.

The Wired Courtroom: Online Justice During the Pandemic The coronavirus crisis is forcing judges to make more use of video technology in order to avoid the justice system’s grinding to a halt during the national shutdown. The expanding use of video to resolve low-level cases is helping to cut the numbers of inmates confined in close quarters in local jails, a webinar sponsored by the Council on Criminal Justice was told Thursday.

Multnomah County placed entire mental health court staff on leave following internal investigation The county determined through its investigation that the complaints against the four employees were valid, and three of the employees received a letter of proposed dismissal. The fourth received a written reprimand. The workers resigned in lieu of being terminated earlier this year.

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

News and Commentary from the Treatment Advocacy Center April news roundup.

TAC Research Weekly April research roundup.

Catching Up with COSSAP Newsletter Supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) as part of the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP), the "Catching Up With COSSAP" Newsletter collects articles (many original to this publication), resources, and training announcements with the express goal of supporting and informing those dedicated to turning the tide of America's substance abuse crisis.

Personally Speaking: Our Mental Health Care System and Criminal Justice System are Broken. We Need Reform NOW Suffering a mental illness is a life-long sentence that is harsh enough. Due to the issues and faults with current policy and law in the justice and medical systems, a person with so much potential who got sick is being punished for his illness. He is serving nearly 20 years in prison for something he didn’t do, and could have plead guilty to a violation charge, had he had the awareness and insight into his illness. One moment of psychosis shouldn’t define an individual.

Idaho's 'IMD Waiver' Approved, Should Mean State Savings, More Mental Health Coverage Idaho has been approved for its “IMD waiver,” the much-sought waiver from federal rules to allow its Medicaid program to pay for behavioral health services at psychiatric hospitals, also known as “institutions for mental disease,” or IMD’s. “This is very exciting news,” said Idaho Medicaid Administrator Matt Wimmer. “Medicaid will now be able to pay for services for people with behavioral health needs, even when those needs are so acute as to require hospitalization. It is a great step forward for Idaho’s behavioral health system of care.”