CCJ/COSCA Southern Region Mental Health Summit

Task Force and Task Force Member Activities

CCJ/COSCA Southern Region Mental Health Summit This 4-minute video, produced by the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health, eloquently summarizes the recent summit, the state team responses to what they learned, and their plans for change.

Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative Annual Leadership Summit Join the American Psychiatric Association Foundation and The Council of State Governments Justice Center on Tuesday, May 17 from 8:00–9:30 p.m. ET for the Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative (JPLI) Annual Leadership Summit. We will be celebrating judicial and psychiatric leadership to improve outcomes for people with behavioral health needs. This will include presenting our Judge Stephen S. Goss Leadership award to a judge (perhaps a Task Force member?) and a psychiatrist. The evening will also include a robust discussion about the National Task Force that has been working to address judicial education related to mental health.

New Task Force Resources Released

The following resources are now available on the Task Force website:

  • Competence to Stand Trial Systems-Questions State Court Leaders Should Ask First As state courts consider initiating reform in their competency to stand trial systems, they should first be sure that they have a clear understanding of how the current system operates. This system survey should provide a consensus vision of current system gaps, strengths, and weaknesses as measured against the Task Force recommendations.
  • 3.1 Diversion – A Pathways Approach Recent diversion innovations have focused on truly prioritizing community-based rather than institutional treatment settings, new models of crisis response,3 training law enforcement and other criminal justice system players on modern brain science, and using civil court options rather than criminal system responses.
  • 3.3 Competency Dockets If the court is proceeding with competency evaluations, restoration, and trial, the court must, to the extent possible, manage the progress of the case to avoid an individual languishing in jail and decompensating at any point of the process. Creating specialized dockets that facilitate access to appropriate diversion and restoration resources for these complex cases is one approach to consider.
  • 3.4 Specialized Behavioral Health Dockets Specialized court dockets and multidisciplinary teams should be considered at several points in the process. At each point, a docket consisting of similar cases at the same stage in the process allows for bringing together relevant team members and resource information that can be focused on the common issues of those on the docket.
  • Behavioral health leadership positions are needed in courts May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Center for State Court’s (NCSC) Behavioral Health Team contends that court administrative offices need behavioral health personnel to improve overall mental illness response programs. Working groups and task forces help set goals, but positions focused on mental health ensure long-term, consistent work improving mental health treatment.

More behavioral health care, housing in Oregon would spare individuals and society from pain As judges, we see hundreds of people charged with quality-of-life crimes like disorderly conduct being deflected into the criminal justice system. They appear in the courtroom with an expectation that the treatment and housing that eluded them in the community will become available and mandated through their involvement in the criminal justice system.  Instead, following costly psychological evaluations, their charges are dismissed after they are found legally unable to assist in their defense and because the time they have now been jailed and low harm of their crime do not justify a commitment to the state hospital. They leave the courtroom with no housing and no treatment, only to return in short order to repeat the whole process. We need a coherent system that is structured to facilitate service delivery in a manner that maximizes opportunities for recovery by individuals involved in the criminal justice system while also accounting for the safety of people who may be at risk from the person’s behaviors. [This recent article was co-authored by Task Force member Judge Nan Waller]

Research and Resources

Racial Discrimination Experienced by Black Parents: Enduring Mental Health Consequences for Adolescent Youth This study identified a developmental pathway from Black parents’ experiences of racial discrimination to adolescent problem behaviors via parent–child conflict. These findings may inform interventions aimed at promoting resilience in parents and youth faced with pervasive racism.

The Racially Disparate Impacts of Coercive Outpatient Mental Health Treatment: The Case of Assisted Outpatient Treatment in New York State In 1999, New York State began implementing Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), which allowed for court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment. Despite the initial benevolent intent of this project, negative racial disparities pervade New York’s AOT program, with Black and Hispanic people being disproportionately subjected to its court orders. This Drexel Law Review Article is rich in historical context and AOT data. It argues that the AOT program has acted to further marginalize and discriminate against New Yorkers of color and recommends several reforms to the program.

TAC Research Weekly: Stigma and the Importance of Peer Support During First-Episode Psychosis When asked about key moments that affected their pathway to employment and education, 50% of participants discussed barriers brought on by their first psychiatric treatment experience, including being treated in a stigmatizing way by treatment providers and the negative experience of being labeled with their diagnosis because of the negative perceptions associated with severe mental illness in society. Several participants, however, discussed how connecting with other young adults with psychosis in their CSC programs helped alleviate their self-stigma and how seeing peers who were working toward the educational and occupational goals they had set for themselves prior to their diagnosis inspired them to do the same.

Defendants with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Criminal Court: A Judges' Toolkit This Drexel Law Review Article acts as a toolkit for members of the judiciary on defendants with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and specifically looks to equip judges with knowledge, evidence, and resources on recognizing and understanding symptoms of ASD in order to better identify and evaluate diagnosed defendants and their offending behavior.

Let's Talk About Mental Health: Quelling the Stigma and Paving the Road to Recovery This Journal of Health & Biomedical Law Article explores a compelling issue: the on-going trend of mistreatment of mentally ill prisoners nationwide. It is vital to implement evidence-based practices, or therapy that is supported by behavioral science and leading diagnostic manuals, into the criminal justice system. This Article will demonstrate how exposure to individual and group therapies has proven to be instrumental in the fight to manage mental illness. Further, training law enforcement and correctional system personnel has been shown to increase mood and attitudes and reduce the incidences of arrests among the mentally ill community.

RJC Digest The May edition of the Rural Justice Collaborative has resources curated for courts in rural jurisdictions, including funding opportunities, webinars, research, and documents addressing rural jurisdictions and behavioral health issues.

Mental Health in Rural America: Improving access and dismantling barriers to care in the Heartland May is Mental Health Awareness Month and there is no better time to address the needs as well as champion the efforts our rural communities are engaged in to address mental health. This webinar discussion will focus on mental health in rural America and how we can improve access and eliminate barriers to essential mental health care.

National Rural Summit Series on Mental Health & Criminal Justice This Equitas Project virtual summit series is focused on rural and frontier diversion efforts and the unique roles and challenges of rural and frontier leaders in disentangling mental health and criminal justice. Presenters will share brief overviews of their diversion work, with time for questions and discussion involving all participants. We’ll hear from law enforcement, judicial, behavioral health, and partners about innovative work being done to promote better health and safety outcomes and reduce incarceration and criminalization in communities with smaller populations, sometimes limited resources, and sometimes vast geographical territories.

Prison Decarceration and the Mental Health Crisis: A Call to Action The number of incarcerated people in the United States with mental health treatment needs is inexcusably and unconscionably high. The authors argue that while the justice reform movement has made some laudable efforts to address the overincarceration of people with mental health treatment needs, these efforts have focused almost entirely on the front end of the criminal legal system. The authors call on decision-makers to take a bold and expansive view of release for those whose incarceration no longer serves the interest of justice, while also recognizing that further education and advocacy are needed to overcome the conflation and sensationalizing of mental illness and violence. Concluding that prison will never be a good environment to meaningfully address mental health treatment needs, the authors contend that there must be a deeper moral reckoning with—and more revulsion against—the warehousing of people struggling with mental health treatment needs in the United States.

Systemic, Racial Justice-Informed Solutions to Shift “Care” From the Criminal Legal System to the Mental Health Care System Responsibility for addressing the needs of those with severe mental illness should rest with the mental health system rather than with the criminal legal system. However, the current division of labor between the two systems is just part of the problem. Simply put, the mental health system is not consistently accessible to or effective for those at highest risk of criminal legal system involvement.

Kennedy-Satcher Center: Criminal Justice and Equity Webinar Series Session 5: Housing Access and Environmental Support Systems Panelists will discuss the essential need for housing access and environmental support systems for justice involved individuals.

Formalizing the Use of Teleservices in Drug Courts: Developing Effective Policies and Procedures This webinar will feature a presentation on developing policies and procedures for teleservices in drug courts. There will also be a discussion on ensuring the privacy of drug court participants as well as encouraging appropriate participation in the delivery of teleservices. A presentation will follow that provides a local perspective on the process for developing meaningful policies and procedures.

Crisis and Recovery Enhancement 5 Things Digest Welcome to the CARE 5 Things Digest, bringing you five great resources on a relevant topic. This week: Mental Health Disparities and Criminal Justice Involvement.

CSG Justice Center Justice Briefing Includes links to new resources, How to Improve Outcomes for People in the Criminal Justice System Who Have Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities, and Understanding Overdose Risk and Medication Efficacy, and an upcoming webinar, Responding to Homelessness: Effective Strategies for Law Enforcement and Community Partners.

SJI News This State Justice Institute newsletter highlights a mediation and mental health initiative in Texas, and links to a number of upcoming resource opportunities.

SAMHSA Headlines Funding announcement for the Tribal Opioid Response program, upcoming SAMHSA webinars, new resources, and more.

In the News

Illinois set to fund police co-responder program with $10 million The social workers in the program will attend calls alongside a police officer with the hopes that that social worker will be able to spot mental health-related issues and determine if the person is having a mental health crisis. With the pilot program, those individuals can now be taken to a mental health facility to better serve their needs.

Indiana broke federal law by not giving inmates mental health help, lawsuit says The lawsuit claims that the state's social services administration and its mental health branch, the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, have "grossly insufficient capacity" to give incarcerated people who can't stand trial the mental health assistance they are entitled to under state law. Those in jail waited an average of 121 days, about four months, for a bed in an inpatient mental health facility, the lawsuit says. Three Marion County defendants were jailed more than 200 days while they waited for treatment, according to the suit.

Richland County can waste time, money in court – or start fixing the jail, attorneys say Disability Rights South Carolina filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court against Richland County, claiming that people with mental illnesses are treated inhumanely and subjected to torturous conditions. The jail’s inhumane treatment, according to the suit, includes detainees being locked up in “filthy” cells; being strapped to chairs for prolonged periods; being housed in cramped shower cells, and not being provided medications. Also, detainees deemed suicidal are unsupervised.

Kentucky mental health program could be roadmap for criminal justice reform Senate Bill 90 will create a series of pilot programs offering access to mental health care for low-level offenders, even allowing conditional release, in the hopes the program can expand statewide. The law calls for at least 10 behavioral health conditional release pilot programs. Their locations will be chosen by the State Supreme Court. “Everyone agrees these folks could benefit from this care, and I think if they get involved in this care they may stop being justice-involved individuals and that makes my community safer and the rest of Kentucky safer. We’d be silly not to give that a try.”

Rhode Island chief judge proposes new court for mental health amid budget deliberations “It’s been a significant and low-standing problem,” District Court Chief Judge Jeanne LaFazia said of mental health to members of the House Committee on Finance. “We need to make some substantial changes in how the criminal justice system addresses this very vulnerable population.” LaFazia said Rhode Island’s district courts have been shifting focus toward what she described as a “comprehensive treatment plan” that focuses on alternatives to incarceration in some instances. In the case of mental health, LaFazia said a dedicated treatment court focused solely on the condition can assist the district courts in carrying through with its mission.

'We have to do more.' Newsom wants $65 million to set up California mental health courts California Gov. Gavin Newsom is prepared to invest significant state funds in his ambitious mental health courts plan — $65 million this year and $50 million annually for years to come. The governor’s plan would create civil mental health courts in each of California’s 58 counties to compel behavioral health care for people with serious untreated mental illnesses. Specifically, it would target those living with illnesses on the schizophrenia spectrum or with other psychotic disorders who aren’t receiving treatment and who lack medical decision-making capacity. Newsom’s office estimates that up to 12,000 people would qualify for CARE Court.


How judges can mitigate vicarious trauma I was seriously triggered by the horrific picture of this deceased young girl who was the same age as my own children. Internally, it was unbearable; externally, I had to be stoic and show no reaction during the bench conference on whether the photo was admissible. Considerations of fairness and procedural justice outweighed my natural human response. The irony of this moment was the decision I had to make as the judge: whether the photo from the scene was so disturbing that it would prejudice the 12 human beings in the jury box against the defendant.

Beating Burnout: Small Changes Lead to Big Results in the Workplace Burnout is impacting workplaces across industries.  Meeting work expectations, while facing excessive stress brought on by the pandemic and challenging times has driven up workplace burnout.  Employers increasingly see the cost of burnout in retention, worker engagement, and productivity.  Addressing burnout is not costly and not complicated. This Virtual Town Hall will feature ways to beat burnout in your organization.

Talking About Mental Health at Work Is No Longer Taboo. It's Essential Mental health is not just about helping those in crisis. It is something we all have to pay attention to. It is about people wanting to work in reasonable conditions, feel heard, and be seen as an important part of the larger organization. It's about knowing that when they run into a difficult personal or family circumstance, their employer has systems in place to support them.

Top Employers Share Workplace Mental Health Solutions “If employees are not in the best shape, the customers don’t get served well. [But] a thriving workforce is going to be there every day for you…. And it’s the right thing to do to have your teammates ready to do well for themselves and their families.” That’s how Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan made the business case at our first-ever Workplace Mental Health Action Summit last week. You can hear that conversation and more in this webinar.

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