Task Force Co-Chairs Share Report and Recommendations

Implementation of the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts' Response to Mental Illness Report and Recommendations

Task Force Co-Chairs Share Report and Recommendations Over two dozen private and public entities and individuals were invited to participate in the first of three convenings to join for a briefing and discussion of the report and recommendations and to explore continued opportunities to collaborate. The Hon. Christopher Goff, Justice, Indiana, and the Hon. Steve Leifman, 11th Judicial Circuit, Florida, are presiding over the briefings. The first briefing was held earlier this week, building on the momentum of the release of the Task Force final report and the CCJ COSCA Resolution 1 adoption.

Research and Resources

State of the State Courts NCSC’s 2022 survey of public opinion finds that there is overwhelming public support for courts to lead on America’s mental health crisis. Of the over 1,000 respondents, 81% said that state courts should help find treatment options before/after trial; 79% indicated that we should divert low-risk offenders with behavioral health issues; and 78% support the development for specialized dockets for those with behavioral health needs.

SJI News Judicial Task Force Releases Final Report on State Courts' Response to Mental Illness - Funded by State Justice Institute, the Judicial Task Force releases the final report from the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness. Continued collaboration between the courts, government agencies, mental health providers and others is critical to affect the systemic change needed to improve how courts respond to individuals with serious mental illness. SJI also awarded grants to Kentucky to support its new Mental Health Commission, and to Illinois to support its competency to stand trial reforms.

County, Court, and Justice Leaders Framework Aligning county, court, and justice leaders with local behavioral health and public health stakeholders to create systems change, the County, Court, and Justice Leaders Framework is a model for a structured, multi-sector planning process. County leaders and their justice partners can use this framework to tackle diverse local priorities, from reducing community violence, building a behavioral health continuum, reducing overdose deaths, establishing diversion and alternative to incarceration opportunities, strengthening family justice systems, and reintegrating individuals back into the community upon reentry.

SMI Advisor - How Treatment Court Professionals Can Effectively Build Relationships and Interact with Behavioral Health and Court Treatment Teams to Better Serve Justice-Involved Clients Hear an experienced panel of advocates from the state of Georgia share strategies to successfully incorporate peer support and behavioral health treatment teams into the court system. This collaboration supports recovery and increases diversion among individuals who have mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders.

SAMHSA’s GAINS Center Announces Criminal Justice Learning Collaboratives The GAINS Center is currently soliciting applications from jurisdictions interested in collaborating with subject-matter experts through Criminal Justice Learning Collaboratives (LCs) designed to explore four topics:

  • Trauma-Informed Treatment Courts
  • Peer Integration in Treatment Courts
  • Data-Driven Strategies for Reducing Frequent Systems Engagement
  • Addressing the Housing Needs of People with Behavioral Health Conditions Who Are Justice-Involved

NDCRC Drug Court Review This peer-reviewed research compilation addresses equity and inclusion in treatment court settings.

Trauma and Blameworthiness in the Criminal Legal System Violence can result in trauma, but so too can trauma lead to violence. Neuroscience offers an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the biology of behavior, including the nexus between trauma and criminal behavior. Yet the criminal legal system consistently fails to account for the traumatic backgrounds of many people charged with crimes. Instead, people who experience trauma as a result of community violence, along with so many others, are ignored or ridiculed when they argue that their traumatic experiences should mitigate their blameworthiness. Military veterans, on the other hand, provide a unique example of a class of people for whom judges, prosecutors, and other actors in the criminal legal system recognize that context and circumstances matter—that even when someone is criminally responsible for a wrongdoing, their traumatic experiences may mitigate their blameworthiness.

Disability Accommodations at Sentencing to Divert Persons with Mental Illness from Prison This article explains how judges can leverage disability protections under the ADA to divert individuals with mental illness from unnecessary criminal punishment.

Denver Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Denver, CO’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program launched on June 1, 2020, with the objective to create a person-centric crisis response program. STAR was formed as part of a partnership among the Denver Police Department, local health agencies, and community stakeholders. It currently deploys emergency response teams that include emergency medical technicians and behavioral health clinicians who provide aid for people experiencing homelessness and crises related to mental health issues, poverty, and substance use, all with the goal of connecting people supports and limiting justice-system involvement. The following videos outline Denver STAR’s efforts since it began; it follows the sections of the toolkit.

Virtual Focus Group on Harm Reduction Strategies in Justice Settings—Request for Participation The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are collaborating on a project aimed at developing educational resources for justice professionals about harm reduction strategies to reduce overdose deaths. We would like to hear the perspectives of those working in the justice system who have direct experience collaborating with public health, harm reduction organizations, and/or substance use treatment partners. We will be scheduling virtual focus groups in January and expect each session to last no more than 90 minutes. If you are a justice professional (e.g., law enforcement, prosecution, defense, court, jails, community supervision) and are interested in participating in a focus group to share your experiences, please submit your contact information via the above link no later than December 19, 2022

TAC Research Weekly: Exploring the Elevated Risk of Chronic Physical Conditions At the time of their first severe mental illness diagnosis, 43% of individuals already had at least one chronic health condition. Even five years prior to being first diagnosed with a severe mental illness, people with severe mental illness were more likely than the general population to be suffering from a chronic health condition. This was especially true for people with bipolar disorder, who experienced elevated levels of 13 of the 24 health conditions included in this study.

NRI Newsletter Includes an overview, State Mental Health Agency (SMHA) Organization and Structure in State Government, a link to the Nation’s First Medicaid Mobile Crisis Intervention Services Program, and other behavioral health related news and research.

In the News

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks at the 3rd Annual Sozosei Summit to Decriminalize Mental Illness “Addressing mental health issues through a disability rights lens has power and promise. Too often, in our national discourse, mental health is viewed as separate from other disabilities. We limit our goals and truncate our vision for people with mental health disabilities…. The Americans with Disabilities Act affords people with mental health disabilities the right to equal opportunity. The Civil Rights Division’s mental health-related work enforces the rights granted by the ADA and other federal disability rights laws. A significant part of our work is enforcing the ADA’s “integration mandate” for adults and children with mental health disabilities – that is, the right to have services administered in the most integrated setting appropriate.

How Courts Should Respond to Court Users with Serious Mental Illness The Illinois Supreme Court said in a press release that Illinois Courts will build off the National Judicial Task Force’s work with a state-specific action plan that is under development and anticipated to be propagated in early 2023. The Illinois Supreme Court has been at the forefront of creating best practices to address the needs of court users with mental illness for some time. “With the wealth of information and resources developed and shared through the National Task Force, along with the expertise of our Illinois Mental Health Task Force and the engagement of many cross-sector justice partners, the Illinois Supreme Court is well-positioned and committed to building upon its previous efforts to enhance court response to individuals living with mental illness,” Meis said.

SAMHSA Proposes Update to Federal Rules to Expand Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment and Help Close Gap in Care Changes Would Make Permanent COVID-Timed Medication Flexibilities, and Update Decades-Old Definitions and Standards for Opioid Treatment Programs at a time when fewer than 1 out 10 Americans can access treatment for substance use disorder.

Judges ask for crisis intervention, juvenile detention Two 8th Judicial District Court judges asked Taos County elected officials this week for their help with juvenile justice issues and the need to implement strategies for helping individuals with mental and substance use disorders navigate the courts or avoid the justice system altogether. "The court is uniquely positioned to bring all kinds of stakeholders together so that we're not operating in these silos," Smith told commissioners. "I think that's the biggest thing: that we prevent this duplication of effort." Once a person with mental illness or a behavioral health issue like substance use disorder, for example, gets involved in the justice system, Chavez said, it can be difficult to navigate their way out of trouble.

Judge Delays Ruling on Adams’ Mental Health ‘Involuntary Removal’ Plan A federal judge Monday reserved judgment on a request to halt Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to expand the use of involuntary commitment for people having mental health crises. During an hour-long court hearing, plaintiff attorneys from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest insisted that the mayor’s announcement was clearly a new initiative, while the city attorney described it as merely an effort to educate police about a tool they already had.

How mental health staffing shortages are delaying justice in Utah's courts "Swift is a matter of years," he said, "not a matter of months or weeks." This year, three competency hearings in the case were either cancelled or continued due to delays in evaluation reports. The reports were either not yet finished or were not filed with the courts in time for review prior to the hearings. Staffing is the No. 1 challenge facing Utah's State Hospital in Provo, according to superintendent Dallas Earnshaw. "They're not just not turning in their homework," he said of the hospital's forensic evaluators.

New York will treat more mentally ill people against their will. Should California follow? California is in the process of setting up Care Courts, a system of legally monitored treatment for people with serious mental illness that has been erroneously described as involuntary. Though it won’t be functioning until next year, and then only in a handful of counties, it allows a judge to oversee treatment, likely after an involuntary hold, and sanction providers who fail to deliver necessary help including housing. But a person under a court-ordered plan can refuse to participate, though that can lead toward a conservatorship after two years. Though on the surface they seem different, the two efforts are “really targeting a similar population, which is people who are chronically homeless and are perceived as refusing services and housing.”

Oregon's process for forced mental health treatment could eventually see changes With rising pressure to improve care for people with mental illness who deny treatment, a mixed group of state leaders are looking at changing state laws. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Nan Waller, a workgroup member, said the group plans to re-evaluate the entire state statute to create systemic change in how Oregon provides mental healthcare.

Poor countries are developing a new paradigm of mental health care. America is taking note. Specifically, these nations have been serving as a proving ground for a model called community-based care, where non-specialist providers or lightly trained laypeople — picture someone like your grandmother, not a doctor — deliver brief mental health interventions in informal settings like homes or parks.

Resolution on Mental Health and Criminal Justice - American Legislative Exchange Council This ALEC proposed resolution “addresses mental health issues relevant to the justice system and encourages the adoption of certain practices intended to better support individuals with mental health issues, the support of law enforcement and courts to best support those individuals, and relieve the strain on the justice system in the process.” Just FYI.

CDHS opens new mental hospital wing to serve competency patients Pre-trial defendants in need of competency restoration services outnumber the amount of bed space in Colorado available to provide those services. The 22 beds in the new unit will help cut down on the waitlist, which is currently over 400 people long.


Equitable Long-Term Recovery and Resilience The Federal Plan for Equitable Long-Term Recovery and Resilience (Federal Plan for ELTRR) lays out an approach for federal agencies to cooperatively strengthen the vital conditions necessary for improving individual and community resilience and well-being nationwide. “We all — government at all levels, industry, educational systems, the health care system, public health, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations — have a role to play in improving health and well-being.”


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