State Courts’ Responsibility to Convene, Collaborate, and Identify Individuals Across Systems

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.

State Courts’ Responsibility to Convene, Collaborate, and Identify Individuals Across Systems Collaborative efforts among justice, mental-health, and public-health systems are essential to respond to individuals who frequently cycle through systems. Court leaders are well positioned to convene stakeholders to implement effective responses to reduce the negative impacts on the nation’s courts.

Task Force Recommendations Implementation - Resources and News

Join the National Center for State Courts for a Webinar on 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.

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 new dates are January 18-19, and February 29-March 1. Contact Rick Schwermer at for more information.

A Look Inside a Tour of the Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery The Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery is preparing to open in the coming year to provide a new solution for those suffering from serious mental illnesses (SMIs) and offer critical alternatives to homelessness and incarceration.

Indiana Supreme Court Takes on Behavioral Health Crisis, Uptick in Caseload The criminal justice system is the primary referrer to substance use disorder treatment and largest provider of mental health care — but the judiciary is doing its part to change that, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush said Thursday. “I love the direction the Indiana judiciary is going,” she told reporters. “I love the fact that we’re working on the behavioral health … because we’d better do better than 70% of people in jail with a substance abuse or mental health issue.” “I think for a long time, like 40 years ago, judges just decided the case then got out the door,” she said. “Now we’re saying, ‘We’re players in our community.’ I tell judges, ‘you’ve got a superpower.’” And judges are encouraged to be proactive: to find ways to divert people away from the system and toward resources.

Kentucky Chief Justice Seeks Mental Health Court Support With the Kentucky General Assembly set to resume in January, state Chief of Justice, Laurance VanMeter gave his first address to the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on Friday in Frankfort. VanMeter shared his desire to establish more mental health courts in the state that focus on offenders who may have underlying mental health conditions or substance abuse issues. VanMeter says the criminalization of these conditions has devastating effects on offenders and their families and wants to secure federal funds to establish 10 mental health courts across the state.

Research and Resources

JMHCP Launches New Criminal Justice-Mental Health Learning Site Program The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)’s—which is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs—Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) recently launched its Criminal Justice-Mental Health Learning Site Program to assist communities as they work to improve outcomes for people with behavioral health needs in the criminal justice system. The program consists of 10 communities who are using innovative practices to “move the needle” with programming and interventions that span the criminal justice system, including with court-based models.

Beyond the Asylum Walls: Tracing the Tapestry of Mental Health Interventions Across Eras and Cultures This article offers an extensive review of the changing field of mental health therapies, charting a transformational path from traditional methods to modern breakthroughs and speculating on potential future developments. The story develops by investigating historical viewpoints while reflecting on the present and highlighting the lessons learned and their impact on contemporary practices.

Insanity and Incompetency: Courts, Communities, and the Intersections of Mental Illness and Criminal Justice in the Wake of Kahler and Trueblood Today, people with mental illnesses in the United States are ten times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized. About 20 percent of the United States population experiences some kind of mental illness each year, and about 3 to 5 percent of the population experiences a severe and persistent mental illness. By contrast, more than 60 percent of jail inmates and at least 45 percent of prison inmates in the United States have a diagnosed mental illness. Part I of this Comment lays the contextual groundwork for a discussion of state competency restoration systems and of the insanity defense. Part II defines and differentiates competency and insanity, distinct areas of the law applied to distinct legal questions bearing on defendants with mental illnesses. Finally, after documenting the problems and shifts in the use of competency restoration, as well as the effective loss of the affirmative insanity defense, this Comment addresses existing gaps in state justice systems and recommends programming and investments states should consider making.

Housing and Services Partnership Accelerator On November 1, HHS and HUD announced the launch of the Housing and Services Partnership Accelerator, which will support states in developing or expanding innovative housing-related supports and services for Medicaid-eligible people with disabilities and older adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. As the name suggests, the Partnership Accelerator will focus on helping states improve collaboration and coordination between organizations and systems that provide services and resources that help people find – and keep – stable housing in the community.

Among Those at Higher Risk for Suicide, Study Finds Key Factors that Drive 988 Lifeline Usage: Someone to Talk to 24/7 and Free Access The Ad Council Research Institute, in partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), have released crucial findings about the public's awareness, perspectives, and current and potential usage of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. As part of the collaborative 988 Formative Research Project, the partners are publishing insights and an actionable toolkit that can be used by individuals and organizations in their outreach and messaging efforts about mental health to make research-informed decisions about how to encourage use of and access to 988.

Building Hope for Families Affected by Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders: A Blueprint for an Effective System of Care to Promote Lasting Recovery and Family Well-Being The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) has developed a three-part “blueprint”—along with a webinar—focused on an effective system of care promoting safety, permanency, lasting recovery, and well-being for families affected by substance use and mental health disorders. The briefs incorporate lessons from 10 Regional Partnership Grants (RPG) and In-Depth Technical Assistance (IDTA) sites. All include effective “on-the-ground” strategies that improve equitable access to family-centered services, enhance outcomes, and illustrate practice-level opportunities to support service provision for families.

AOT: Partnering with Hospitals to Ensure Success Are there people in your community whom you know could benefit from AOT, if only the hospital would make a referral? Are doctors telling you they are too busy to complete needed paperwork or to testify in court? Are potential AOT candidates getting discharged before the wheels of AOT can be set in motion? Are staff shortages and high turnover making it nearly impossible to maintain lines of communication with key hospital staff? Find out how successful AOT programs have overcome these and other hurdles to ensure that those caught in a destructive and costly cycle of repeat hospitalizations get the assistance they need to break that cycle. Join us virtually for AOT: Partnering with Hospitals to Ensure Success, on Thursday, November 16th at 3 p.m. ET.

Building New Horizons: Opening Career Pathways for Peers with Criminal Justice Backgrounds Transform your perspective on peers with the comprehensive guide, “Building New Horizons: Opening Career Pathways for Peers with Criminal Justice Backgrounds.” It was created by SMI Adviser and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD). The guide ignites healing in an important way. It helps bridge the gap between participants in behavioral health programs and peer support specialists who have lived experiences in the criminal justice system. When we embrace this connection, we create a profound opportunity for genuine understanding, trust, and growth.

SAMHSA's GAINS Center Is Now Accepting Applications for Sequential Intercept Model Mapping Workshops SAMHSA’s GAINS Center is currently soliciting applications from communities interested in Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) Mapping Workshops. SIM Mapping Workshops are designed to bring together a local, cross-system, multidisciplinary group from a particular jurisdiction (typically a county) to facilitate collaboration and to identify and discuss ways in which barriers between the criminal justice and behavioral health systems can be reduced through the development of integrated local strategic action plans. SIM Mapping Workshop participants are expected to be drawn, in large part, from local criminal justice and behavioral health agencies and organizations.

Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative Newsletter The CSG Justice Center welcomes 10 new learning site communities; Impacts of Housing Instability survey; and more.

CSG Justice Center Justice Briefing Reimagining the approach to juvenile justice staffing, innovative staff recruitment practices, Indiana’s attorney shortage, and upcoming events.

In the News

LA Superior Court Officials Unveil Website for Soon-to-Come CARE Court Los Angeles Superior Court officials on Wednesday, Nov 1, unveiled a website providing information and details on the county’s upcoming start of the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Act, or CARE Court, program that allows individuals to petition a court to provide treatment for people suffering from mental illness.

New Technology Helps State Officers, Clinicians Provide Mental Health Care Oklahoma law enforcement officers say the iPads offer telehealth services to connect distressed individuals with mental health professionals, reducing the number of hospitalizations and calls to 911 or 988. The agency has distributed 30,000 iPads to law enforcement and mental health providers since 2021. The Oklahoma Legislature approved $17 million that year to enhance crisis response, including $2 million for iPads for officers.

Oregon Community Mental Health Providers are Squeezed for Resources Patients are entering and exiting Oregon State Hospital at a quicker rate than before to meet court-ordered deadlines on mental health treatment so they can defend themselves against criminal charges. But the mental health system that cares for them when they leave the state-run residential psychiatric hospital is struggling to keep up with the increased demand for services, which can run from outpatient counseling to housing to keep them off the streets.

297 Missourians in Jail Await Mental Health Evaluations According to Jeanette Simmons, the deputy director for the Division of Behavioral Health, 297 people in Missouri jails are currently waiting for a mental-health evaluation before they can go to trial. Those people have been ruled incompetent to stand trial, but are waiting for hospital beds to open up to receive treatment. Simmons noted steps are being taken to decrease the amount of people waiting for a test. This includes a team of employees from the department going into jails to provide treatment to inmates. Simmons also said that a change in a law now allows outpatient treatment, and that a possible bill in Kansas City could lead to an increase in beds.

Cities Know the Way Police Respond to Mental Crisis Calls Needs to Change. But How? Cities across the country are experimenting with new ways to meet rapidly increasing demand for behavioral health crisis intervention, at a time when stories of police shooting and killing people in mental health crisis have become painfully familiar. Big questions persist about these efforts: what role should law enforcement play in mental crisis response, if any? How can leaders make sure the right kind of response is dispatched to meet the needs of a person in crisis? And what kind of on-going support is necessary after a crisis response call? City officials and behavioral health professionals often don't have easy answers, in part because the programs are new and hard data on their effectiveness is scarce.

Judge Hears Arguments on Audio Hearings for People Facing Involuntary Commitment Should a person who is facing involuntary commitment for a mental health crisis be able to see the state Circuit Court judge who is deciding his or her freedom, or is it enough to just have a phone hearing? That is the central question being put to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Landya B. McCafferty, who heard motions on Monday on an amendment to a 2018 case in which the ACLU claims audio hearings violate due process. It is the most recent chapter in a five-year-old case involving the state’s emergency room boarding crisis as the state does not have enough room in psychiatric treatment facilities for all those who need help and are in crisis. Almost 30 adults are waiting right now in hospital emergency rooms across the state for placement and in some cases hearings on their temporary freedom, which by law must be held within three days of their admission, are by phone.

Amount of Homeless People with Mental Illness Increased Slightly in Recent Years, but Experts Say They're More Visible: Analysis There has not been a significant overall rise in the number of people experiencing homelessness over the past decade, according to a new ABC News analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, though there has been a steady increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness with severe mental illness, according to our analysis of HUD data.


2023 Work in America Survey – Artificial Intelligence, Monitoring Technology, and Psychological Well-Being For some workers, technological advancements—especially artificial intelligence (AI)—are leading to concern about what the future may hold. Some people worry about AI replacing their job, while others are concerned about being monitored by technology at work and the ways that might invade their privacy. APA’s 2023 Work in America survey data showed connections between these worries and psychological well-being. The findings revealed that those who report having concerns related to AI and monitoring technology in the workplace were more likely to also report certain signs of diminished psychological and emotional well-being, although there is no confirmation of the root cause of these feelings.


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