Task Force Releases Comprehensive Guidelines, Principles for Juvenile Mental Health Diversion

Task Force and Task Force Member Activities

Task Force Releases Comprehensive Guidelines, Principles for Juvenile Mental Health Diversion Upwards of 70% of young people in the justice system have a diagnosed mental disorder, and 90% have experienced a traumatic life event that can negatively impact their mental health. To assist courts and service providers in addressing the growing mental health crisis, the National Judicial Task Force to Examine Courts’ Response to Mental Illness recently released a set of Juvenile Justice Mental Health Diversion Guidelines and Principles.

New Task Force Resources Released The following resources are now available on the Task Force website. Included are the remaining elements of the new case management framework, and a new diversion resource:

  • 2.3 Jail Practices Best practices in jails include universal screening for symptoms of mental illness and/ or substance use disorders on all people booked into jail using validated tools to support opportunities for diversion and connections to care. In addition, jail administrators and court officials should identify opportunities to share this information through information sharing agreements and platforms to help inform case planning and processing. The Stepping Up Initiative identifies key data to collect regarding management in jails of those with behavioral health needs.
  • 3.2 Civil Responses Courts should develop and provide multiple civil court alternatives and seek to divert people with behavioral health disorders to civil options at multiple points in the process.
  • 3.6 Treatment Courts All court systems should have access to a full continuum of behavioral health treatment and supervision options. Treatment duration and dosage needs to be matched to an assessed level of clinical need, and the intensity of supervision should correlate to the assessed criminogenic needs of the individual. Treatment (or problem solving) courts are an essential component of this continuum and are one of the most effective interventions for high-risk/high- need individuals already engaged with the criminal justice system.
  • 4.2 Transition and Aftercare Plans When an individual with behavioral health needs is making progress and having success, courts should make every effort to ensure continuity of treatment such that progress can continue. To ensure successful transitions, transition and aftercare plans which promote recovery need to be developed which are based on the individual’s strengths and needs.
  • National Diversion Landscape Survey Summary and Full Survey Report This State Court Leadership Brief summarizes the findings of the first ever National Diversion Landscape survey issued in June-July 2021 and again in October-November 2021. Forty of the fifty-six states and territories responded (71.4%). The survey was issued by the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness to State Court Administrators and Court Behavioral Health Administrators, often with assistance by State Behavioral Health Authorities. The full survey results describe the national landscape and continuum of behavioral health deflection, diversion, and practices for adults.

Adolescents and the Mental Health Crisis The NACM Court Leader’s Advantage Podcast Episode for May 17, 2022, continues sharing information about mental health and the courts, in the fourth of the five-episode series. This episode looks at young people, mental health, and courts. Over a third of high school students in the U.S. struggle with depression, anxiety, and stress due to COVID. As such, courts need to explore solutions to this burgeoning crisis. This episode asks:

  • What are judges seeing on a daily basis about this crisis?
  • What should we be doing in the courtroom about children, young people, and families regarding behavioral health needs?
  • How can judges and court administrators support the health and safety of young people before court involvement?

Locking People Up Is No Way to Treat Mental Illness In this The Atlantic article, Norm Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Task Force member Judge Steve Leifman, an associate administrative judge for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County, Florida, persuasively argue that if we stopped using prisons to warehouse psychiatric patients, we could heal people and save tax dollars. They also urge support for the recommendations of the CCJ COSCA Task Force.

Research and Resources

Apply Now to Join the Aligning Health and Safety: State Policy Community of Practice The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center will host a four-session virtual Community of Practice (CoP) focused on the state’s role in supporting local efforts to reduce the number of people with behavioral health needs in the criminal justice system. The State Policy CoP will bring together cross-system teams of high-level policy staff responsible for implementing complex, collaborative cross-systems efforts at the state level. The CoP will provide them with the frameworks, peer learning, and intensive one-to-one technical assistance to strengthen state policy infrastructure that is necessary for robust statewide efforts to improve outcomes for people with behavioral health needs and reduce overreliance on law enforcement, hospitals, and jails.

The Stepping Up Minute A new toolkit from the Stepping Up partners offers an op-ed outline, a template press release, and sample social media posts to support Stepping Up counties in getting the word out about their efforts.

Neuroscience and Criminal Justice: Time for a "Copernican Revolution?" This Article argues for a fundamental change in the conceptual orientation of criminal justice: from one based on concepts such as free will, desert, and moral responsibility, to one based on empirical science. The Article describes research in behavioral genetics, acquired brain injuries, and psychological traumatization in relation to criminality. This research has reached a level of development at which the traditional approach to criminality is no longer tenable and should be discarded. It argues that mental health legislation provides a model that could be adapted and applied to offenders.

Neuroscience, Criminal Sentencing, and Human Rights This Article discusses ways in which neuroscience should inform criminal sentencing in the future. Specifically, it compares the ethical permissibility of traditional forms of punishment, such as incarceration, on the one hand, and rehabilitative “neurointerventions” on the other. Rehabilitative neurointerventions are interventions that aim directly to modify brain activity in order to reduce reoffending.

Mental Health Training: Strategies for Small and Rural Law Enforcement Agencies This CSG brief details strategies for small and rural law enforcement agencies to develop and implement comprehensive, high-quality training that creatively addresses their unique challenges. These strategies are intended to help officers effectively respond to people who have mental health needs and connect them to necessary services.

Promoting Health and Safety Through a Behavioral Health Continuum of Care This National Association of Counties publication posits that by forming strategic partnerships throughout health and justice systems, county leaders are better serving residents with behavioral health conditions such as mental illness and/or substance use disorders. Central to a behavioral health continuum of care, counties are creating practices and programs that help people:

  • Before an emergency, by connecting them to treatment and services in the community that target unmet behavioral and physical health needs before they escalate to a crisis,
  • During an emergency, through a coordinated crisis response system that provides community members with someone to call, someone to respond and somewhere to go, and
  • After an emergency, via continuing system collaboration and linkages to social services, peer support and recovery care.

Integrating Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Data IJIS and the CSG Justice Center will present two products on data collection, “Integrating Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Data: Checklist for Building and Maintaining a Data Warehouse” and “Selecting a Data Warehouse Vendor for Criminal Justice-Behavioral Health Partnerships.” These products can aid jurisdictions in assessing current system capacities to conduct a data match, creating system integration plans, and developing technology solutions.

Implementation of Peer Support Specialists in Mental Health Centers Peer support specialists are a critical part of the behavioral health workforce, but they remain an underutilized and misunderstood profession within mental health care. The implementation of peer support services can seem challenging to many professionals. This SMI Adviser webinar will review the challenges associated with hiring peer support specialists and the successful integration of peers into mental health teams.

Family Treatment Court Practice Academy: Beyond Collaboration to Results This webinar series helps professionals from family treatment courts, child welfare, substance use disorder treatment, dependency courts, and other partners advance their collaborative capacity to improve outcomes for families affected by substance use disorder.

Reentry Resource Centers: Supporting Recovery, Shaping the Continuum of Care During this webinar, two counties—Bernalillo County, New Mexico and Franklin County, Ohio—will discuss their reentry resource centers, including how they have been set up and maintained, what needs are most requested and addressed, how connections are made to continue treatment, and challenges they have had to overcome.  Speakers will explore how data and best practices have improved their centers and what changes they plan to make in the future.

Bridging the Gap Between Academic Research and Real-World Criminal Justice Reform In this episode of Measured Justice podcast, our hosts Erik Luna and Ashley Oddo are joined by Stephen Morse, Associate Director for the Center for Neuroscience & Society at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; as well as Margo Schlanger, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, to discuss the effects of mental health on the criminal justice system. Our guests take a look at mental health while incarcerated including access to care, access to medications, and the types of charges that can be attributed to mental health issues; the implications of solitary confinement on a prisoner’s mental health; and the fact that prisoners with mental health issues are more likely to be incarcerated for a longer period of time and have a worse experience in incarceration than those without.

CSG Justice Center Justice Briefing Results of a racial equity in sentencing analysis in Vermont; how Reentry 2030 aims to break down barriers for people leaving prison or jail; ways to get involved in Justice Counts; and more.

New Funding Opportunity Announcement: Community-Driven Approaches to Address Factors Contributing to Structural Racism in Public Health This notice solicits applications to support development and implementation of new policies and innovative practices to address policies that may create or perpetuate health disparities and may contribute to structural racism. OMH expects recipients to address health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations, and to demonstrate the impact of those efforts on outcomes and the overarching goal of advancing health equity.

BJA Funding Opportunities FY 2022 Veterans Treatment Court Discretionary Grant Program, FY 2022 Connect and Protect: Law Enforcement Behavioral Health Response Program, and more.

In the News

The Dangerous Movement to Stop Treating the Mentally Ill We need better standards to determine when people are truly incapable of understanding that they have serious brain diseases. We obviously need dramatic reform of our mental health system, along with changes in the criminal justice system and the way the police deal with confrontations. But no one really chooses to freeze to death under a bridge, to rot in solitary confinement in prison, or to die by suicide or an accident triggered by their illness. My wife Judy Harris often says, “Our son died with all his civil liberties intact.” We can strike a better balance—one that can reduce the number of tragedies so many of us and our loved ones have suffered.

Denver placed 597 people experiencing homelessness into housing in the past 100 days Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Friday that the city has completed the second round of its “housing surge,” during which his administration attempted to find homes for 400 households in 100 days.

Lawmakers pass mental health package that includes 'gap' protection in criminal justice system The bill requires that if a defendant is found incompetent and the charges have not been dismissed, the court shall order the defendant to participate in a competency restoration program to restore the defendant's competence. “Minnesota has had a long-standing revolving door with defendants being found incompetent to stand trial and being released into society without receiving the mental health care they so desperately need," Senjem, the author of the bill's language on competency restoration, said. "This bill provides the care and supervision they need to be crime-free and productive, and it will keep the public safe.”

Forced treatment provision of California mental health initiative draws support from patient families A state proposal that would provide more help for the mentally ill includes a provision that would force some patients into treatment, a provision that's generating both criticism and support. Governor Gavin Newsom's Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court initiative would grant more authority to a civil court judge to mandate treatment. Disability rights groups say that's a violation of civil liberty. But some family members of the severely mentally ill say it may be the only way for them to survive.

‘We Had to Work with Partners to Help Them See Mental Health as a Medical Need’ We put those three professions—a law enforcement officer, a paramedic, and a behavioral health clinician—together so that people who may pose a public safety risk or who can be unpredictable while having a mental health emergency can have access to treatment and services, just as people who have mental health emergencies without posing a public safety risk do. We piloted the program in the city of Dallas and saw immediate success. We then began to expand that program to other areas of the state.

DOJ investigating state mental health resources in Louisville The U.S. Department of Justice announced it’s opened an investigation into Kentucky’s mental health services system, specifically related to people in Jefferson County. According to a statement, the department will investigate whether a lack of resources has caused people with severe mental illness to be unnecessarily institutionalized, or to have increased run-ins with police. The investigation is being conducted under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mental Illness Too Often Wrongly Associated With Gun Violence Only 4% of the violence that occurs in the United States can be attributed to people with mental illness, yet when incidents of gun violence occur, they are almost immediately associated with psychiatric illnesses.

Rising rates of suicide, depression accelerated by pandemic among U.S. kids - 60 Minutes - CBS News The U.S. surgeon general has called it an 'urgent public health crisis' – a devastating decline in the mental health of kids across the country. According to the CDC, the rates of suicide, self-harm, anxiety and depression are up among adolescents – a trend that began before the pandemic.

New Overdose Data: 107,622 Overdose Deaths in 2021 Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data showing there were 107,622 overdose deaths in 2021, the highest annual death toll on record from drug overdose fatalities, and a 15% increase from the year prior.

Op-Ed: The mentally ill defendants in my courtroom need treatment, not jail - Los Angeles Times To make the “care first, jails last” vision a reality, the county must invest much more in the professionals who conduct mental health evaluations in the courts, the people who connect defendants to services, and the programs that are alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illnesses.


Mental Health in America: A 2022 Workplace Report There is a workplace mental health crisis in America. Burnout, exhaustion and hopelessness are more common among workers than ever before, while pandemic- related stress continues to chip away at productivity.

  1. The need to act is dire: Of the nearly 53 million U.S. adults with a mental illness, only 46% have accessed mental health services.
  2. While workers need more support from their employers, they don’t necessarily know where to turn within their organizations.

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