New Task Force Resources and a Technical Assistance Opportunity

Task Force and Task Force Member Activities

New Task Force Resources and a Technical Assistance Opportunity One of the last Task Force products is the Judges’ Guide to Mental Health Diversion. This comprehensive resource is intended to help jurisdictions successfully initiate new diversion strategies. Effective diversion is one of the most important components of a meaningful court and community response to the issues identified during the Task Force examination, and therefore it warrants ongoing support and attention. A new technical assistance opportunity accompanies this new resource, as described below.  Apply now!

Judges’ Guide to Mental Health Diversion This guide is intended to serve as a resource framework for courts and judges to use to promote and implement diversion strategies for individuals with behavioral health needs. Ideally, judges would collaborate with a range of system stakeholders to examine the entire diversion continuum but could also focus on one step of the process at a time. This guide focuses on post-arrest, pre-sentence diversion processes.

Diversion Initiative Overview and Applicant Information The National Center for State Courts (NCSC), with funding from the Sozosei Foundation, invites pilot courts to test the usefulness of the updated Judges’ Guide to Mental Health Diversion (Guide) and to identify needed modifications. Selected courts will be provided on-site and virtual technical assistance by NCSC to test the Guide and plan and implement jail diversion systems for individuals with behavioral health needs. The online application is now open!

Violence and Mental Illness Myths and Reality This new Mental Health Facts in Brief provides an overview of the all too often over-emphasized relationship between mental illness and violence that can result in liberty restrictions and further stigmatize a population of people who may be better served in a treatment setting. Strategies for judges faced with decisions in particular cases are offered for consideration to improve outcomes without compromising public safety.

Reserve your spot for a site visit to the Miami Model There is no better way to “put it all together” than to experience the continuum of innovative practices that comprise the Miami Model. Judge Leifman and his team have graciously agreed to host a series of visits to Miami, and the next available dates are January 26-27, February 23-24, and March 23-24. There are also a few open spots left for December 15-16. Individuals and teams are welcome to attend, but space is limited for each visit. Please contact Rick Schwermer at for registration information.

Task Force Super-Session at NACM Task Force member Justice Christopher Goff joined an expert panel to discuss the work of the Task Force and the role of courts and judges in addressing the intersection of mental illness and the courts in this one-hour video from the recent NACM national conference.

Psychiatrists, Judges Work to Address Competency to Stand Trial Process The report is significant, explained Champion, Leifman, and Pinals, because it is part of a greater, nationwide effort to improve the competency to stand trial system. They are members of a task force created in early 2020 by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, which is aimed at assisting state courts in their efforts to more effectively respond to the needs of court-involved individuals with serious mental illness. Champion said it is encouraging to see so many national organizations and experts focused on this very complicated issue and coming to similar solutions. “Our systems of care in the communities and hospitals, whether state or private, are challenged,” Champion said. “Around the country, we need to focus on preventing criminal justice involvement in the first place.”

Research and Resources

Mental Health in America: The Intersection of Mental Health and Justice In this episode of the PEW podcast "After the Fact," we explore what happens when mental health crises arise in communities, and how emergency response centers, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, offer alternatives to connect people with care.

Mass School Shootings Are Not Caused by Mental Illness Most perpetrators of mass school shootings do not suffer from severe mental illness, a new study reports. When psychosis is present, mass murderers in an academic setting use means other than firearms to commit their crimes. Consistent with previous findings, the majority of mass school shooters are male and caucasian, and almost half of school shooting episodes end with the perpetrator’s suicide.

Homelessness and Pretrial Detention Predict Unfavorable Outcomes in the Plea Bargaining Process Homelessness and pretrial detention were associated with significant adverse effects on plea-bargained case outcomes. Findings regarding homeless defendants suggest that they have divergent enough experiences from other defendants to make them a distinct defendant population whose specific experiences warrant further study.

Statement of the Department of Justice on Enforcement of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C. In the years since the passage of the ADA and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead, the ADA’s integration mandate has been applied in a wide variety of contexts and has been the subject of substantial litigation.  The Department of Justice has created this technical assistance guide to assist individuals in understanding their rights and public entities in understanding their obligations under the ADA and Olmstead. Of particular interest for those advocating for more community-based services:

Do the ADA and Olmstead require a public entity to provide services in the community to persons with disabilities when it would otherwise provide such services in institutions?

A: Yes. Public entities cannot avoid their obligations under the ADA and Olmstead by characterizing as “new service” services that they currently offer only in institutional settings.

Black Robes and White Coats: Using Project ECHO to Increase Judiciary Knowledge about Substance Use Disorder High rates of substance use and overdoses among people interfacing with the criminal justice system have highlighted a need for judges to be more informed and aware of substance use disorders and optimal treatment approaches. This webinar will provide an overview of the pilot of Project ECHO for the Judiciary and the components needed for an effective Project ECHO for the Judiciary program. This presentation will also include two speakers that will share their experiences as a judge and as a physician participating in the program along with outcomes regarding changes in knowledge and beliefs related to substance use disorders and treatment.

Texas Judicial Summit on Mental Health Resources The recent Texas JCMH mental health summit produced a prodigious amount of resources, from mental health bench-books to presenter slide decks from numerous national speakers.

2022 National AOT Symposium & Learning Collaborative Likewise, this recent TAC symposium generated numerous resources related to Assisted Outpatient Treatment.

SAMHSA Releases Interim Strategic Plan The ISP presents a new mission and vision that emphasize a more person-centered approach and briefly describes our priorities and guiding principles. This ISP not only represents SAMHSA’s thinking as an agency, but also reflects the insightful feedback we have received from our many partners over the past months. Later this winter, we will post a draft of the new Plan on our website; the intent of this posting is to solicit public feedback to ensure the Plan is as responsive and inclusive as possible.

HHS Releases New National Guidelines for Improving Youth Mental Health Crisis Care “America’s youth deserve appropriate, well-informed and effective behavioral health crisis services. All too often, children and youth experiencing a behavioral health crisis face hospitalization or justice system involvement, instead of receiving the home-based care and community-based services that are in many circumstances best for de-escalating and stabilizing a crisis,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA.

New Tool for Counties to Assess Their Set, Measure, Achieve Progress The Stepping Up partners have released a new resource, the Set, Measure, Achieve Progress Survey, for counties interested in tracking and sharing progress toward their goals for Set, Measure, Achieve, the Stepping Up initiative’s latest call to action. The survey is a companion to the brief released in 2020, which explains how counties can set targets for reducing the number of people with serious mental illnesses in their jails, measure progress toward meeting these targets, and achieve results. With this new tool, counties participating in Set, Measure, Achieve will be able to log their baseline data on one or more of the Stepping Up four key measures and track their individual progress. After completing the survey, counties will receive a customized summary of their data from the CSG Justice Center. Any time a county fills out the survey again, they will receive a new, individualized report.

NRI Newsletter This edition links to a number of resources, including Behavioral Health: Available Workforce Information and Federal Actions to Help Recruit and Retain Providers, Study Highlights Children Most Likely to Be Taken to Psychiatric ER By Police After 911 Call, and HHS’s Approval of Arizona’s Medicaid Interventions to Target Health-Related Social Needs.

Minorities Less Likely Than Whites To Get Addiction Treatment Research has shown that racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to be prescribed lifesaving addiction treatment options than are white people and even when Black and Hispanic patients start a prescription for buprenorphine — the most popular medication to help those in recovery fight cravings — the typical duration of their treatment is shorter than that of white patients, according to a new analysis.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive What is SAMHDA? SAMHDA is a one-stop shop for SAMHSA public use data with online analysis tools. It is maintained by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ).

TAC Research Weekly: Inadequate Health Care in Prisons for People with Serious Mental Illness Long wait times to receive medication and meet with a psychiatrist, in addition to a lack of privacy as most mental health check-ins were conducted in or near the person’s cell, triggered significant treatment disengagement. Overall, participants did not consider the physical nor mental health care they received in prison to be particularly patient-centered.

Evidence-Based Interventions to Address the Opioid Epidemic The report features 24 evidence-based strategies and programs that state, county, and local policymakers can implement to combat the opioid crisis. The report highlights strategies and interventions that span children and family services, patient services, systems improvements, and policy solutions. It includes actionable resources, the latest research, and model programs that can be scaled and replicated to help jurisdictions improve practices and policies, find solutions, and bridge the gap between research and practice. There is also a self-assessment tool that is designed to assist jurisdictions interested in evaluating the status of their current adoption of evidence-based practices and helping determine gaps.

Expanding First Response Assessment Tool Launch Join the CSG Justice Center for a live webinar to launch the Expanding First Response Assessment Tool, an online, interactive tool that will allow the CSG Justice Center to provide tailored, step-by-step guidance for communities to plan and implement a new community responder program.

Optimizing Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Performance through Supportive Policy and Funding, Access to Technical Assistance, and Ongoing Fidelity Monitoring Lorna Moser, PhD, is the director of the University of North Carolina's ACT Technical Assistance Center in the UNC Department of Psychiatry’s Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health. She will describe strategies for improving ACT programs through improved infrastructure including state policies and local performance improvement activities.

Justice Peer Learning Network Explores Keeping Mentally Ill from Jail To support community members who live with serious and persistent mental illness and whose crimes are driven by that untreated illness, the Felony Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team provides an alternative to incarceration at the sentencing phase of a felony-level case. The program connects defendants to a team of professionals who provide intensive supervision and comprehensive, wrap-around services. “Through several innovative initiatives, Lucas County seeks to improve outcomes for those with mental illness through reducing inappropriate incarceration, increasing access to services and enhancing public safety,” said Judge Lindsay Navarre, Common Pleas Court in Lucas County.

Pandemic Era Procedural Improvements That Courts Should Adopt Permanently This NCSC report contains a high-level summary of procedural improvements that courts implemented between 2020 and 2022 that courts should permanently adopt. It contains examples, best practice recommendations, and references to publications and materials that provide information, models, and guidance for jurisdictions that want to adopt these improvements.

In the News

ASU partners with Arizona Supreme Court to launch Center for Forensic Science and Psychology The Arizona Supreme Court has announced a new partnership with Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with the official launch of the Arizona Supreme Court Center for Forensic Science and Psychology. The mission of the center is to examine and disseminate the most up-to-date understanding, training and application of forensic science and forensic psychology as applied to various case types throughout the justice system.

We're Supporting Mental Health The Ad Council has launched a $65 million multiyear initiative to address the mental health crisis in the U.S. The new effort will unite brands, marketers, media companies and nonprofits. The initiative encompasses current campaigns below and new efforts to meet the needs of multiple audiences. The Huntsman Mental Health Institute has made a lead $15 million contribution to the initiative.

Record number of defendants with mental illness 'decompensating' in Washington jails More people than ever before with mental illness are waiting in Washington jails for court-ordered treatment. Research shows this causes their illnesses to worsen. Washington is experiencing the biggest backlog in state history of mentally ill defendants sitting in jails, waiting for required services to restore what’s called “competency.”

Nowhere to Turn When the Mentally Ill Refuse Treatment Among the many shortcomings of the nation’s mental health care system is its inability to address a core conundrum: how to help patients who do not think they need help and who refuse treatment? Short of revamping the nation’s entire mental health care system, there is one legal shift that could make a difference. Called the Assistant Outpatient Treatment (AOT) law, it enables judges to order patients with severe mental illness and histories of noncompliance, jail time, or hospitalizations to take medications and adhere to treatment plans.

Special LEAD program helps people stay out of criminal justice system Officials recently marked the one-year anniversary of Howard County's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program. The program, which has seen a 91 percent success rate, offers individuals who participate in low-level crime related to mental health and substance use challenges the opportunity to be diverted to human services instead of entering the criminal justice system after an encounter with a law enforcement official.

Wait Times for Mental Health Services in Washington Jails Worsen as Fines Spiral In January of this year Joshua Marsh was booked into Grays Harbor County Jail, accused of assaulting officers. He would spend eight months there, waiting to be transferred to a state psychiatric hospital for mental health services. "They forgot about me pretty much," said Marsh, speaking by phone from Western State Hospital, where he was ultimately moved in late September. Marsh, who still has yet to face trial, is one of hundreds of defendants across Washington state who remain in a legal limbo, jailed while waiting for a psychiatric bed as state hospital wait times balloon in violation of a federal court settlement.

New Wayne County Jail dashboard offers statistics, charts in push for transparency The launch of the free, online database providing demographic figures, mental health data and other information on the jail population was announced by the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. Its goal is to provide transparency surrounding Wayne County's incarcerated population and to help stakeholders in criminal justice — including the courts, judges, and jail administrators — to better understand and visualize how their decisions affect inmates and jail outcomes.


Vicarious trauma experienced by judges and the importance of healing Every day, judges across the world listen to evidence and make life altering decisions affecting their fellow citizens. Being a judge also carries with it the responsibility of becoming a community leader and living by a set of values that manifest through honesty, fairness and being just. As judges, we need to recognize that we must maintain our health in order to sustain our integrity as human beings. A judge who is healthy physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually enhances their ability to access the wisdom necessary to render fairness and justice.

Nearly half of workers say their job hurts their mental health, survey finds The surgeon general's framework outlines five "essentials" to help workplaces develop policies and practices to support their employees. These include creating psychologically and physically safe conditions for work, promoting positive relationships and cultures at work, providing opportunities for more flexible schedules, more autonomy over work, and opportunities for growth. The framework also emphasizes the importance of making people feel like they matter and that their work matters to those around them. In fact, knowing that one matters can reduce stress, whereas feeling like one does not matter can increase depression risk, the report notes.

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