Judge Steve Leifman, Norman Ornstein and Keith Ellison on Criminal Justice and Mental Health

Task Force and Task Force Member Activities

Judge Steve Leifman, Norman Ornstein and Keith Ellison on Criminal Justice and Mental Health In this webinar Judge Leifman moderates a conversation with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Norman Ornstein, whose family foundation spearheaded The Definition of Insanity documentary about criminal justice reform, police reform, and mental illness.

Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) and the State Courts This Task Force sponsored Court Leadership Brief explains the CCBHC model, provides advice to the national court community on how to engage the CCBHCs in court operations, and links to a more comprehensive publication titled Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and the Justice Systems (2021), a report by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing to the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness.

Statewide, Regional, and Trial Court Behavioral Health Positions are Recommended State courts and justice partners nationwide are hiring behavioral health positions or embedding clinicians into court operations to provide the necessary leadership and capacity to examine and improve state courts’ response to mental illness. There are a variety of models, required qualifications, and types of positions across the nation; and no one model has emerged as most effective. This Court Leadership Brief identifies a variety of positions as examples and describes how various stakeholders have increased their states’ capacity to lead change in this important area.

Oregon's Aid and Assist Dashboard This Innovation Spotlight was developed by State Court Administrator and Task Force member Nancy Cozine and Business Analyst Conor Wall to describe its first in the nation “Aid & Assist” Dashboard by responding to a series of questions. The term Aid & Assist is used in Oregon to describe its competency to stand trial system. The dashboard is primarily a way for the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) and individual courts to track changes in aid & assist caseloads and work with system partners to identify areas for improvement and system change at the state and local level.

Mental and Behavioral Health Initiatives in the Arizona Courts The Arizona courts, led by the Arizona Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts, have initiated a number of programs and reforms across the state to improve court services for people living with mental illness. This Task Force sponsored report follows the impact of those efforts. Representatives from Arizona’s fifteen counties revealed substantial progress in meeting the needs of people with mental illness over a short period of time. Arizona can serve as an example to other states regarding the amount of progress that can be achieved when dedicated court staff and stakeholders gather to address the problem. The process of SIM mapping, in particular, served as an important catalyst to jumpstart these innovations in many counties, but sustained efforts will be critical to their success.

Task Force Member Competency to Stand Trial Presentation at the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health Summit Judge Nan Waller and NCSC Court Consultant Rick Schwermer presented “Competency Restoration Crisis, A National Perspective” at the recent JCMH Summit, attended by almost 1,000 participants. The presentation focused on the recently adopted Task Force recommendations for reforming our competency laws and processes. A video recording of the presentation is linked.

Task Force Website Revamped The Behavioral Health and the State Courts website has been revised to better reflect the organization of the work of the Task Force. Kudos to Bev Hanson for her work on this effort, which was also recognized by her receiving the National Center for State Courts Florence A. McConnell Award. Congratulations Bev, and do check out the new site!

Research and Resources

Debunk Common Myths Around Serious Mental Illness This excellent series of four infographics from SMI Advisor addresses myths about SMI and technology; psychopharmacology; and SMI treatment.

State Policy Platform for Addressing U.S. Mental Health & Addiction Crisis On the heels of a new Surgeon General’s Advisory on youth mental health, The Kennedy Forum has released a policy platform that outlines actions states can take to address rising rates of mental health and substance use disorders across the nation. The document provides lawmakers with specific guidance on advancing evidenced-based practices in youth mental health; achieving better integration with primary care; ensuring parity in insurance coverage; and addressing political determinants of health to achieve mental health equity, including comprehensive crisis care and criminal justice system diversion.

CSG Justice Center Justice Briefing Justice Counts national launch; new resource for community responder programs; job opportunities; and upcoming events.

COSSAP Webinar: Veterans Justice Outreach This webinar will provide an overview of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Justice Programs (VJP), specifically Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO). Although the work that Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists do as members of Veterans Treatment Court teams is by far the best-known part of the program, this webinar will review the ways in which VJO partnership with local law enforcement and other community agencies can ensure pathways into needed treatment for Veterans in crisis, or simply in need of services.

CSG Justice Center Justice Briefing This edition includes Expanding First Response: A Toolkit for Community Responder Programs, How to Successfully Implement a Mobile Crisis Team, How States Can Support Local Crisis Systems, trauma resources, and more.

Addiction Policy Forum Launches New ACEs Toolkit Addiction Policy Forum published “Helping Children Impacted by Parental Substance Use Disorder,” a resource for adults navigating what to do when helping children impacted by a parent’s addiction. Developed in coordination with Warren County, Ohio, the toolkit offers resources for understanding adverse childhood events, what to look for if you suspect a child might have a parent with a substance use disorder, what you can do to help, and more.

Court Programming and Funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance Learn more about federal programming and funding opportunities available to state and local courts during a webinar at 2:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 16. Officials from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice will share information on relevant programming for courts, an outlook for the fiscal year 2022 grant season, highlights of administration priorities, and other training and technical assistance opportunities for courts.

National Prosecutors Summit on Mental Health This national summit, hosted by Mental Health Colorado and The Equitas Project, featured a keynote address by Judge Steve Leifman, and included sessions on diversion, alternatives to incarceration, and prosecutor-led diversion. The full webinar is now posted online along with the summit materials.

Advancing Behavioral Health Equity: National CLAS Standards in Action On November 16, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hosted the Advancing Behavioral Health Equity: National CLAS Standards in Action webinar. In case you missed it, a recording of the webinar is now available on OMH's YouTube channel. This webinar highlighted real-world examples of behavioral health service providers using the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS), and the Behavioral Health Implementation Guide.

Addiction Policy Forum Launched the Opioid Preventions Campaign for LatinX Communities Addiction Policy Forum launched “CampaƱa de PrevenciĆ³n de Opioides,” a public health media campaign to help prevent adolescent substance use, now available in both English and Spanish. The accompanying Toolkit includes explainer videos, PSAs, resources, and materials that translate the science of prevention for adolescents, parents, and teachers.

SAMHSA Announces Unprecedented $30 Million Harm Reduction Grant Funding Opportunity to Help Address the Nation’s Substance Use and Overdose Epidemic SAMHSA is now accepting applications for the first-ever SAMHSA Harm Reduction grant program and expects to issue $30 million in grant awards. This funding, authorized by the American Rescue Plan, will help increase access to a range of community harm reduction services and support harm reduction service providers as they work to help prevent overdose deaths and reduce health risks often associated with drug use.

New Publication: Practical Tools for Prescribing and Promoting Buprenorphine in Primary Care Settings This SAMHSA resource provides information to primary care providers and practices on how to implement opioid use disorder treatment using buprenorphine. It identifies common barriers and strategies to overcome them. It documents step-by-step tactics to support buprenorphine implementation.

In the News

Illinois Mental Health Task Force makes call to action The Illinois Supreme Court became a part of a national effort to improve how mental illness is handled in the court system. This has been a two-year-long initiative by the state Supreme Court. In October, the first-ever statewide behavioral health administrator was brought on. Scott Block was hired to serve as a voice and a resource for those with mental health, and to head up initiatives.

Editorial: It's one thing to change our mindset on mental illness and crime; now we have to find strategies This week, Anne Burke, chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, and other criminal justice experts spoke to reporters in Springfield about ongoing efforts to find more effective ways to deal with people whose mental health issues bring them in contact with the court system. The initiative, growing out of a National Centers for State Courts project, features a host of high-sounding goals and phrases that essentially boil down to Burke's assertion that the courts' approach to mental illness must be one of "compassion and hope.” It must, of course. But the real objective of the moment is to move beyond hope and toward effective action. That likely will prove a considerably more imposing challenge than merely redirecting the mindset of the court system.

Middlesex County Working to Solve the Question of “Divert-to-What?” Through Stakeholder Collaboration Middlesex County, in Eastern Massachusetts, is New England’s most populous county. In 2018, the Massachusetts legislature created the Middlesex County Restoration Center Commission to develop a pilot that would help solve the “divert-to-what?” question. In Middlesex County, the sheriff’s office now offers evidence-based programing and treatment for incarcerated individuals, but individuals should not have to go to jail to receive the services they need.

Thousands are stuck in Texas county jails, mentally unable to stand trial and waiting for treatment. Some die before they get it.Over the past two decades, Texas has seen a 38% increase in the rate of people found mentally incompetent to stand trial. People who are criminally charged but deemed incapable of participating in their own defense are usually sent to a state hospital for restorative mental health treatment, then returned to jail when considered competent.

Wrong races, hidden names among data challenges our team faced with jail mental health project The origin of our reporting began with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s reply to a request for public information. We wanted to know the number of people who had died waiting for a space in a state mental hospital. HHSC said it didn’t have that record. So, we went to the record keepers of the courts: district clerks. We found judges order incompetent people to be sent to a state hospital for restoration. The data we were able to obtain varied from county to county, so we had to fill in the blanks — thousands of them — to analyze the information. We found discrepancies in racial and ethnic data, and a lack of information about the economic status of individuals on the waitlist.

State Mental Health Safety Net is “Failing” Coloradans The Colorado News Collaborative has spent six months investigating a state behavioral health system that turns away some of the most vulnerable and at-risk Coloradans in crisis, with no recourse from state officials. We learned that Colorado, the state with the nation’s highest rate of adult mental illness and lowest access to care, has been giving those centers non-compete contracts and a privileged rate status for nearly 60 years, without meaningful oversight. The centers have been charging taxpayers up to 17 times more than independent Medicaid providers for the same services, and some centers have been paid for programs they’ve not provided, with no pushback from the state agencies funding – and charged with regulating – them.

The U.S. surgeon general issues a stark warning about the state of youth mental health U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has a warning about the mental health of young people. The pandemic has made the issues behind the mental health crisis only worse, he said. "This is a critical issue that we have to do something about now," he said. "We can't wait until after the pandemic is over." Murthy, who issued an advisory called "Protecting Youth Mental Health," also cites gun violence, the specter of climate change, racism and social conflict as sources of stress.

Embedding Crisis Response in Harris County’s 911 Dispatch Center Between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm, seven days a week, behavioral health call takers sit alongside 911 call takers at the Houston Office of Emergency Management, ready to meet the mental health crisis needs of Harris County’s 4.1 million people. The first of its kind in the nation, the Harris County 911 Crisis Call Diversion program embeds behavioral health specialists in the 911 call center to decrease reliance on preventable emergency and hospital services for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Kittitas County to approve mental health tax The money will fund chemical dependency resources, mental health treatment and therapeutic courts. 26 other counties have implemented such a tax since it was adopted by the state more than a decade ago. "In 2013, the department had 128 calls involving mental health issues in the city. In 2017 that number nearly doubled to 245 calls, and in 2020 the number of calls continued to rapidly increase to 423. A 230% increase since 2013. Our concern is, where will we be in 2025 and beyond."

Columbia River Mental Health Services offers homeless health care to go Columbia River Mental Health Services has launched its Mobile Health Team, a program that strives to eliminate barriers to accessing mental health services, drug and alcohol screenings, and basic medical care for people experiencing homelessness. The team consists of five members: a peer with lived experience to help build rapport with people the team encounters, a mental health therapist, a substance-use disorder professional, a nurse and a part-time provider who offers physical health care.

New behavioral and mental health services seek to reduce law enforcement and emergency rooms' involvement in crises The new programs include rapid response and stabilization in the period after an acute psychiatric crisis. Enrollees experiencing an acute behavioral health emergency can receive up to 23 hours of crisis stabilization in a community-based setting, and short term 24-hour residential evaluation for psychiatric and substance use cruises, rather than being admitted to an inpatient facility. The Director of DMAS, Karen Kimsey, said that 96% of patients who get a direct referral to these types of services don’t need to go to an emergency room.

People are dying unnecessarily because North Dakota has failed to face its mental health crisis North Dakota has been earnestly studying its acknowledged mental health crisis for years. But unless it provides adequate community-based services, its jails and morgues will fill with casualties of the failure to address this problem. North Dakota has the resources to fix this problem to a significant extent. We’ve spent years studying the issue. Now we have to follow through and find the ways to provide the essential services at the community level.

Work begins on addressing violations at Colorado mental hospital: 'We’re using a system that doesn’t work now' As the number of online beds and employees working at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo continue on a downward trajectory, triage measures to help alleviate the increasingly clogged pipeline for pre-trial criminal defendants waiting in jails for admittance to Colorado's largest psychiatric hospital are underway.

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