External Funding Support to Lead Change

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

The Task Force made a number of important findings with corresponding recommendations supported by over 100 resources for courts and our partner stakeholders. Each Behavioral Health Alerts revisits an original Task Force resource or a new resource that supports a Task Force recommendation.

External Funding Support to Lead Change For many State and Local Courts, pursuit of external funding is not a core disciplinary competency and may feel overwhelming. If unsure where or how to start, draw upon existing relationships with governmental, university, or not-for-profit allies as willing partners, equally invested in thriving communities, and often willing to share their knowledge and expertise. Drawing from our Building Relationships to Lead Change Leadership brief, “as we seek to improve our court and community response to mental health and co-occurring disorders, we will draw motivation, strengthen partnerships, and achieve goals through our relationships and engaging our resources.”

Task Force Recommendations Implementation - Resources and News

Mental Health Diversion: Lessons from the Field In 2022, the National Judicial Task Force Examine Courts’ Responses to Mental Illness recommended that the Judge’s Guide to Mental Health Diversion, a vital tool for judges across the country for over a decade, should be updated. The National Center for State Courts, along with stakeholders and national experts, revised the guide. The new guide contains updated information and relies on a better understanding of how to effectively divert people with mental health and co-occurring disorders towards treatment at every stage of legal system involvement. Join us on December 11, 2023 at 4:00pm ET to learn about the soon-to-be-released Judge’s Guide to Mental Health Diversion, how courts in Kentucky and Missouri used it to develop new diversion opportunities, and NCSC’s ongoing efforts to improve outcomes for people with mental health and co-occurring disorders.

Behavioral Health Advocates Want State to Follow Miami-Dade Alternative Sentencing Program The 11th Judicial Circuit Court’s Criminal Mental Health Project is a jail diversion program that sends offenders with mental illness into treatment and support services rather than incarceration. “It is the best model in the country by far,” said Vigil, president of the Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance. She took part in a training program on the Criminal Mental Health Project in Miami-Dade County last month with several other New Mexico leaders, including state Rep. Jenifer Jones, R-Deming, and Clovis County Commissioner George Jones. They also took a tour of the Miami Center for Mental Illness and Recovery as part of their trip.

Early 2024 Miami Model Site Visits Dates Set Up to 30 slots will be available for these guided visits to experience the Miami Model. Hosted by Judge Steve Leifman, each two-day event will include observation of and interaction with their misdemeanor and felony jail diversion programs, competency restoration alternatives, extensive CIT initiative, AOT program, peer specialist initiative, and a chance to visit the new one-stop Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery. The dates are January 18-19, and February 29-March 1, though the January date has only a handful of slots remaining. Contact Rick Schwermer at rschwermer@ncsc.org for more information.

Virginia Judicial Behavioral Health Summit Judges across the Commonwealth convened teams of key behavioral health docket staff to attend the first Judicial Behavioral Health Summit in Williamsburg October 30th-November 1st. Recognizing the important intersection between these at-risk populations and the courts, the Supreme Court of Virginia, with assistance from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), jointly planned the Judges Leading Change Summit. The NCSC has been working collaboratively with the Court as it guides our state’s judicial system in its efforts to improve the administration of justice for individuals who are affected by mental illness. The Summit combined educational sessions with opportunities for jurisdictional team planning, geared towards improving systemic responses to individuals with mental illness. Chief Justice Goodwyn welcomed everyone followed by Judge Leifman, Associate Administrative Judge of the Miami-Dade County Court.

Research and Resources

Foundation Work for Exploring Incompetence to Stand Trial Evaluations and Competence Restoration for People with Serious Mental Illness/Serious Emotional Disturbance The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the status of the fields of competence to stand trial (CST), incompetence to stand trial (IST), and competence restoration (CR) for adults and youth in the criminal justice system and youth in the juvenile justice system. The CST process is a high priority for many states and for many national organizations, with SAMHSA taking the lead by supporting 4 years of a Competence to Stand Trial Learning Collaborative, engaging 14 jurisdictions in peer-to-peer learning, and engaging with nationally recognized subject-matter experts.

The National Council on State Courts (NCSC) convened the National Judicial Task Force (NJTF) to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness, which was composed of judges and other experts who closely examined the CST process and identified recommendations for improving the competence process. The Council of State Governments (CSG) convened a group of experts to discuss broader issues related to the competence process and to make recommendations for change. Taken together, these three initiatives underscore the state-level work and progress under way across the country; focus on the role of the courts and judges as leaders in improving the competence process; and focus on the broader issues and challenges in reforming the systems that must address the basic legal right of individuals to be competent to face trial in the United States. All three of these national efforts to reform the competence process are described in more detail in the following sections.

Ensuring Access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD): Court Considerations The National Center for State Courts, All Rise, and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice invite you to participate in a national webinar on December 4th from 12:00-1:30pm ET. This webinar will educate courts and their collaborative partners on:

  • The Neurobiology of OUD and how MOUD works and their FDA-approved uses;
  • MOUD myths and misconceptions;
  • Basics of MOUD in court settings and judges’ roles and responsibilities to persons with OUD; and
  • Legal protections for persons taking legally-prescribed MOUD.

Promoting Equity through Police-Mental Health Collaborations (PMHCs): A Community Workshop Hosted by The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance. Advancing racial equity as law enforcement and behavioral health (LE-BH) teams respond to encounters with people living with mental health needs and/or substance use disorders continues to be challenging for communities. This “Community Workshop” will provide guidance in three key areas:

  • Key factors contributing to persistent racial and social inequities in LE-BH service delivery, including the underlying determinants of structural and systemic racism found across justice and health systems
  • Integration of data analysis to inform and evaluate diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges impacting LE-BH policies, practices, and outcomes
  • Emerging and evidence-based best practices from across the country

Incentives, Sanctions, and Service Adjustments Training All Rise's Treatment Court Institute is now accepting applications for 2024 incentives, sanctions, and service adjustments (ISSA) training. These trainings are free and will be conducted both in person and virtually. ISSA training is designed to educate teams in the theory and application of behavior modification as it applies to an effective adult drug treatment court. This training will challenge teams to self-assess and receive assistance with taking corrective steps to improve policy, practice, and outcomes. The application deadline is Friday, December 29, 2023.

Veterans Treatment Court Innovations Program - Grant Application Justice for Vets (JFV), in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), has developed a Veterans Treatment Court Innovations Program. JFV seeks applications to implement and enhance veteran treatment court services to ensure that programs are conducting and using validated risk and need assessment tools to determine eligibility, program track placement, supervision, and treatment program assignment and dosage. JFV will provide up to $67,742.00 to programs for up to 12 months to enhance current services and increase participant outcomes in veterans' treatment courts.

Veterans Who Have Been Arrested or Incarcerated Are at Heightened Risk for Suicide Many veterans face a range of difficulties when returning home and reintegrating into civilian life. Military service can result in serious health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, substance use disorders, and chronic pain. Research suggests that these types of challenges make it more likely that veterans will become involved with the justice system. According to 2021 census data, veterans make up about 6.5% of the U.S. population, yet 31% of veterans have been arrested at some point in their lives compared with 18% of nonveterans. While the literature has not established a causal connection, it does indicate an association between justice system involvement and suicide, according to a recent report from the Council on Criminal Justice’s Veterans Justice Commission. A study from 2021 found that these veterans were almost twice as likely to make a suicide attempt than veterans with no justice involvement.

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and National Institute of Corrections Launch First of its Kind Resource to Assist Nation’s Jails in Providing Wrap-Around Services The Justice Department, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a program office of its Office of Justice Programs, and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), today announced the launch of the Jails and Justice Support Center, a first of its kind initiative to bring together innovative policies, strategies, promising practices and resources to help in the management of the more than 3,000 jails nationwide. The center is an online resource that will serve as a national hub for information, training and resources supporting the state and local agencies that operate America’s jails.

U.S. Should Fund Opioid Use Disorder Treatment in Correctional Facilities Despite studies indicating that when people in jails and prisons have on-site access to medications for OUD (MOUD)—methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone—they can experience reduced overdose risk and increased OUD treatment engagement following release, few correctional facilities provide such treatment. But that situation is beginning to change, with policymakers increasingly recognizing addiction as a public health problem that follows incarcerated people back into their communities. States are now seeking federal insurance coverage, such as Medicaid, to help pay for health care services in correctional facilities, and agencies supporting those facilities would benefit from putting standards of care in place.

Evolving Overdose Crisis Shakes Previously Effective Treatments Those who seek help breaking their addictions face treatment options rendered less effective by the prevalence of fentanyl, xylazine, and other synthetic drugs. Vermont’s pioneering efforts in establishing a statewide program for medication for opioid use disorder, known as Hub and Spoke, now face significant new challenges. The rise of fentanyl, xylazine, and stimulants is undercutting the effectiveness of addiction medications. Commonly administered doses of buprenorphine, better known as Suboxone — the brand name for a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone — have proved less effective against fentanyl, and commonly used doses can trigger violent, immediate withdrawal.

In the News

Diversion Courts Are Working in Outagamie County Special courts set up to deal with certain types of criminal defendants are paying off in Outagamie County. Those going through the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and the Mental Health Court all show greatly reduced rates of further criminal offenses. There is a 73-percent reduction in recidivism of those that go through the drug treatment program over the past three years, the Veterans Court saw a 75-percent reduction in recidivism, and the Mental Health Court resulted in a 79-percent decline in offenses.

Here’s Why Gov. Murphy Vetoed Bill to Steer Nonviolent Offenders from Courts to Counseling Gov. Phil Murphy has vetoed legislation that would steer certain nonviolent offenders away from the state criminal justice system and into mental health programs. But he indicated he would be willing to support the initiative if lawmakers limit the offenses covered. Although the bill excludes the most serious offenders, those accused of first-degree crimes, people accused of second-degree and violent crimes, including sexual offenses triggering Megan’s Law, would have been eligible based on a prosecutor's review, Murphy said. He proposed an amendment that would exclude all Megan’s Law crimes from eligibility.

Colorado Appeals Court Clarifies Timeline for Forcible Medication Cases Colorado's second-highest court clarified last month that judges are allowed to balance the urgent need to involuntarily medicate a person with their lawyer's ability to prepare for the case on short notice. The panel addressed whether the judge acted unreasonably by holding the hearing only three calendar days after appointing a lawyer. "We conclude," wrote Judge David Furman in the appellate panel's Oct. 12 opinion, "the probate court in this case appropriately weighed Ramsey’s counsel’s ability to prepare, his experience, and his familiarity with these cases against the severity of Ramsey’s apparent present need for treatment."

DA Partnership to Focus on Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues “With the widespread impact to our communities caused by the opioid and gentanyl crisis, as well as the need for improved access to resources for mental health, District 27 has designated one of our investigators to serve as a mental health crisis response officer,” District Attorney Jack Thorp said. As a mental health crisis response officer, Riggs will be able to respond to situations in which a person is having a mental health crisis, working to not only resolve that incident but to identify the help that person needs. He will also provide training to other law enforcement officers in how to handle such situations.


The Next Generation Professional: An Opportunity to Reframe Legal Education to Center Student Wellness The current rigorous design of legal education breeds depression, imposter syndrome, anxiety, and problems with substance abuse. The outcome of these issues is that too many graduates are not ready “for effective, ethical, and respon- sible participation as members of the legal profession” because their mental well-being is at an all-time low following graduation and preparation for the bar exam. Law schools across the nation need to under- take a self-evaluation of how to marry the rigor needed to prepare their students for law practice with the necessity of ensuring graduates leave the academic world with a strong sense of themselves as legal professionals and in a healthy state of mental wellness.

Web Seminar Mental Health at Work: 2024 Trends and Predictions As we move into a new year, our panelists from Mercer, Buzzfeed and Headspace will reflect on what's progressed and what is to come when it comes to mental healthcare and employee well-being. In this webinar, you'll learn about:

  • How different ways of working, work cultures, and the economy are impacting employee mental health in a post-pandemic world
  • The most top-of-mind considerations for benefits leaders seeking mental health solutions
  • Innovations in mental health that are addressing the needs of today's workforce – and how employers can identify solutions that will drive value

Comments or feedback about Behavioral Health Alerts?
Related news or resources from your state or jurisdiction?
Please contact Rick Schwermer.


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