Decriminalizing Mental Illness: A Novel Approach - Film Screening and Panel Discussion

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Task Force and Task Force Member Activities

Decriminalizing Mental Illness: A Novel Approach - Film Screening and Panel Discussion Healing Minds NOLA is honored to host a screening of the much talked about Film Documentary: "Definition of Insanity." On Wednesday, June 23rd from 6pm-8pm CDT, find out how one Miami-Dade County Judge, Steven Leifman, is bucking the criminal justice system to lead the nation in decriminalizing mental illness.

Save the Date – In-person learning opportunities scheduled The Task Force is coordinating site visits for teams interested in directly observing the most innovative programs in the country. The first two site visits will explore the model Crisis Response Center in Pima County (Tucson) Arizona. In addition to the CRC, we will also learn about the Jail Population Review process to facilitate jail releases by connecting detainees with behavioral health and support services, and we will explore several diversion programs implemented by Pima County. On-site sessions will be held October 7-8, and November 8-9. Additional site visits are also being scheduled this winter in Miami to see the “Miami Model,” and to Hollywood/Los Angeles to observe their same-day competency process, felony diversion program, and supported housing model. For more information contact Rick Schwermer at

Research and Resources

New Michigan SIM Scorecard Tool The Center for Behavioral Health and Justice created the SIMPLE (Sequential Intercept Model Practices Leadership, and Expertise) Scorecard to assess county-level behavioral health and justice collaborations. Fifteen counties across Michigan were analyzed using the SIMPLE Scorecard. The Scorecard used a 36-point scale to measure best, promising, and evidence-based practices implemented by each county across each intercept of the sequential intercept model, their leadership and their expertise. The scorecard could be used as an evidence-based strategic planning tool to drive behavioral health and criminal legal system change at a county level.

988 Crisis Response: A Promise in Peril State policymakers are now responsible for introducing and passing bills that include 988 fees on telecommunications bills to support crisis call centers and non-billable mobile crisis and crisis stabilization program costs. Many are making progress, but they've hit a major roadblock. The telecommunications industry is fighting state 988 bills because of the fees they would have to facilitate - fees that supposed to pay for "efficient and effective routing of calls, personnel, and the provision of acute mental health crisis outreach and stabilization services," according to Congress. So far, the industry, which made billions in profits during the first quarter of 2021 and has benefitted from recent expansions in tele-mental health, has fought to lower and narrow fees in states ranging from Kansas to California - even though these small fees (typically, less than $.50 per phone line per month) will be paid by consumers.

BJA Funds Available for Mental Health Courts The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is now accepting applications for its Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program. This year, funding is available through this program to jurisdictions creating or expanding a mental health court. The grant program seeks to provide support to justice system agencies partnering with mental health agencies to reduce crime and recidivism associated with people with mental illnesses and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

Family-Centered Justice Solicitation The Family-Centered Justice program aims to transform the delivery of justice to children and families in courts throughout the United States by infusing effective family drug court principles into the broader family and dependency court system. Our objective is to increase the capacity of state courts to intervene effectively with parents with substance use and/or co-occurring mental health disorders who are involved with the court as a result of child abuse and neglect issues. Up to six sites will be selected to receive $50,000 in funding to support a project manager who will lead the cross-sector team through a structured strategic planning process.

New COSSAP Site-Based Funding Opportunity BJA is seeking applications to develop, implement, or expand comprehensive programs in response to illicit opioids, stimulants, or other substances of abuse through COSSAP. Awards will be made in two categories; up to $1,200,000 for local jurisdictions, and up to $6,00,000 for state applicants.

June 16 Webinar: The Future of Teleservices in Drug Courts Part I of this three-part Virtual Learning Community presents a retrospective view of the transition to teleservices from the perspective of treatment court practitioners, a review of the mounting evidence-base for teleservices in treatment court settings, commentary on the potential for enhancing best practice standards through the use of teleservices, and results of a nationwide survey of treatment courts regarding practice modifications, implementation barriers, effective innovations, and intent to continue the use of teleservices.

Integrating Family Health and Wellness into Your Veterans Treatment Court Program NADCP's Justice For Vets is offering a free webinar on family health and wellness for veterans treatment courts. Drawing on evidence from various treatment court models, intentional family engagement leads to better outcomes for participants and the family unit. In addition, evidence from related systems such as schools, substance use treatment programs, and mental health treatment programs reveals that integrating family and friends into the recovery model has positive benefits all around.

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

Webinar: Learn about evidence-based treatments for Veterans with trauma in treatment court programs This webinar will provide information on how to make the distinction between PTSD and complex PTSD in Veterans and then discuss the best evidence-based treatments for both. It will also discuss some of the strengths and challenges of each treatment and why, in a patient-centered world, agencies need to have clinicians trained in all of them.

Stepping Up and Connections to Care: Making the Case with Data Counties across the country have made progress addressing the Stepping Up Four Key Measures. Yet counties often struggle with Key Measure 3: post-release connections to care for people who have a serious mental illness. This measure necessarily involves a handoff from the county jail system to the community-based behavioral health system, with implications for data collection and treatment initiation. This webinar will feature representatives from the Stepping Up initiative and Johnson County, Kansas, who will discuss the importance of tracking data on this key measure and how counties can set up systems to track this data accurately.

Mental Health and Mediation: Promoting the Well-Being of Involved Parties People come into mediation with different states of being and levels of wellness. Learn how to identify triggers and states of being that impact the mediation process and to work with parties effectively. Gain knowledge about meaningful ways to resolve disputes while being sensitive to the mental health of parties. Participate in the development of Best Practices for mediators when working with parties experiencing trauma or mental health issues.

What Clinicians Need to Know About Trauma The link between trauma, including adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and substance use, means that addressing trauma is a critical component of providing care to clients with substance use challenges. Implementing trauma-informed, recovery-oriented principles and practices can improve health outcomes related to not only substance use, but also overall wellbeing. On Thursday June 17, join the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and the Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS) for a webinar exploring practical trauma-informed strategies to engage with and enhance care for clients with substance use challenges.

AOT Learning Network Third Thursday Webinar Since we are limited to the webinar platform, we asked our friends in Doña Ana County, New Mexico (Las Cruces) to walk us through a sample AOT case from the time of referral through graduation. Several cool features will be highlighted, including how DAC AOT incorporates peer support and welcomes new participants with a “meet the team” video.  Presenters will include Judge Lisa Schultz, Program Administrator Mari Tellez, AOT Case Manager Claudia Iglesias, Housing Navigator Wes Smith and NAMI-Certified Peer Support Worker Micah Pearson.

How Counties Can Keep People with Mental Illnesses Out of Jail The Implementation Mechanisms of Justice and Behavioral Health project, in partnership with the Stepping Up initiative, surveyed more than 900 counties to learn more about their efforts to address behavioral health needs in the justice system and to identify relationships between demographics, health care infrastructure, and reported crime rates on county jail populations. The first in a series, this webinar will provide an overview of initial survey findings and describe practical ways to keep people with mental illnesses out of jail.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) Webinar Announcement The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is pleased to announce a new publication -- Motivational Interviewing Skills in Action for Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Teams: A Technical Assistance Bulletin. This Bulletin is designed to help JDTC court professionals use Motivational Interviewing to improve communication with youth and their families.

SAMHSA Supplemental Research Bulletin—A Preliminary Look at Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic This edition of the Supplemental Research Bulletin reviews research through November 2020 on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected U.S. mental health and substance use. It also presents research on populations experiencing greater impacts, including youth, women, health workers, and racial and ethnic minorities.

You're Invited to the JCOIN Speaker Series: Reentry Research The risk of overdose death significantly increases after reentry into the community. In this webinar, presenters will discuss the latest research, science and innovation around mitigating risk during reentry for people with opioid use disorders. Topics covered will include medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), behavioral interventions, and establishing linkages to community-based support services.

Medicaid Forward: Executive Working Groups Medicaid Forward: Behavioral Health identifies opportunities for action to address immediate and long-term mental health and substance abuse challenges emerging from the COVID crisis across communities, including for children, older adults, those with mental health and addiction diagnosis, individuals transitioning from prison, and those living with developmental or intellectual disabilities. It offers options for state administrators to explore and determine what makes most sense for their state.

NASMHPD Update HHS Announces $3 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funding for SAMHSA Block Grants, Establishes Behavioral Health Coordinating Council; Racism and Psychiatry: Contemporary Issues and Interventions; and NASMHPD Resources for Addressing Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Use with Crisis Services.

A Guide to Advancing Justice Related Goals and More Taking the Call launch event, American Rescue Plan Act 2021, and crisis response resources for law enforcement. From the CSG Justice Center.

Justice Briefing Share your feedback on reentry during the pandemic; transforming juvenile justice systems; Diverting People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; and other upcoming events from the CSG Justice Center.

Reconnect Wrap - This Week in Criminal Justice Includes Community Supervision Challenges for Populations with SUD, a COSSAP brief exploring common challenges faced by states and community supervision programs when serving populations dealing with SUD

Report of the National Survey to Assess First Responder Deflection Programs in Response to the Opioid Crisis This is a first-of-its-kind national, federally funded survey specific to law enforcement-led diversion and first responder deflection (FRD) built on the five pathways of deflection. This survey and report encompass what we believe to be the most comprehensive overview of the field and its role in responding to the opioid crisis—as well as how deflection/first responder deflection offers alternatives to law enforcement and first responders in their work.

Get the latest on arrest trends The nation’s justice and safety systems were not designed to serve all people equally. There are stark racial disparities in arrests, and police enforcement disproportionately harms marginalized groups. In response, communities are demanding that public safety be reimagined to ensure justice and equity for all. This Vera Institute interactive tool enables users to better understand arrests and the current footprint of policing in the United States.

Suicide and Serious Mental Illness an Overview of Considerations, Assessment, and Safety Planning People who live with serious mental illness (SMI)—such as major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia—are at increased risk of suicide. It is critical to understand the problem of suicide for those who have SMI. That is the only way to create a comprehensive, effective suicide prevention plan. SMI Adviser and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) are proud to present a new guide on Suicide and Serious Mental Illness. It is an ideal resource for both suicide prevention coordinators and mental health clinicians.

New Rural Justice Collaborative Works to Solve Justice Issues Research shows rural Americans are more likely than urban residents to be jailed, overdose, and lack access to substance abuse and mental health care and public health services. The new Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC) will identify solutions and help rural communities implement them over the next three years.

National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Webinar Series: Protections for Individuals in Recovery from an Opioid Use Disorder Join NCSACW, along with Carla Carter, from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), for a two-part virtual session introducing a new video series on federal disability rights protections that apply to certain individuals in recovery from an opioid use disorder (OUD).

In the News

Capitol Connector Newsletter - New Substance Use Loan Repayment Program, Congressional Hearings This week, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced a new Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program. The program will repay educational loans for eligible behavioral health staff up to $250,000 for six years of work; also the Senate HELP Committee considered the nomination of Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon to be Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, leading the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), includes a link to her written statement and hearing testimony.

LA County Publishes First-Ever Online Jail Decarceration Dashboard The dashboard, called the “Care First L.A.: Tracking Jail Decarceration” dashboard, can be accessed at It will be updated daily using data collected by the Sheriff’s Department and breaks down everything from racial disparities, to case status, to the prevalence of mental illness among the jail population. “36% of men and an astounding 66% of women in our jails have mental health needs. And these percentages have increased dramatically over the last year, confirming the need to scale up our mental health diversion programs, especially for women.”

Senate committee rejects late amendment to tweak state’s involuntary hospital admission law The legislation was an attempt to find at least some wiggle room in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that found the state was violating patients constitutional rights by systematically detaining patients in hospital emergency departments, sometimes for days and weeks or months, before they are granted a probable cause hearing, which is required within three days excluding Sundays and holidays after they enter the mental health system.

Pennsylvania State Leaders “Step Up” to Take on Locally Driven Policymaking The CSG Justice Center reviewed Pennsylvania’s policy landscape to determine where and how the state could better support people with serious mental illnesses cycling in and out of the state’s jails. CSG Justice Center staff ultimately recommended that Pennsylvania state leaders focus on three priority areas that can promote game-changing progress at the local level, even while the state navigates competing budget priorities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin’s 911 Call Center Integrates Mental Health Call Crisis Diversion In the City of Austin, when a person dials 911, the call taker asks, “Are you calling for police, fire, EMS, or mental health services?” Adding mental health as an option is groundbreaking and allows people in the community to identify whether a psychiatric concern precipitated the call or is a component, says Marisa Aguilar, LPC, practice manager of Integral Care’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team.

Seattle mental hospital — the third in WA — to begin construction soon This is one of two taxpayer-funded mental health operations in the works for Seattle. The other is a proposed behavioral health center at Harborview Medical Center. The new hospital will hold up to 150 patients. By comparison, the state-owned Western State Hospital, built in 1871, has roughly 850 beds, and Eastern State Hospital has 317.

Guest editorial: Systemic inequity in Ventura County’s mental health system The neglect and criminalization of people with mental illness is the civil rights and social justice issue of our time. People with mental illnesses continue to face stark inequities borne from stigmatizing beliefs about their worth. You won’t see them marching in protest.

Fort Smith Police report criminal incarceration drop in 2020 The number of people in this city's jail fell about 33% in 2020 compared with the year before, according to the Fort Smith Police Department. "It does nobody any good to have mentally ill people in jail," Judge Tabor said. "It's the worst possible scenario, and, with the actions of the Police Department and the development of the Sebastian County Mental Health Court, those things are working together to address that situation."

Should people having mental health crises go to jail? Inmate's death should be a 'wake-up call,' advocates say The issue is coming to the forefront locally after Malcolm James, a 27-year-old who reportedly called police for help on May 28 after setting fire to his own apartment during an apparent mental health crisis, died in the Racine County Jail on Tuesday, the second of two deaths in the jail in five days.

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