Judicial Wellness

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.

Judicial Wellness In 2020, the ABA published the largest study of American jurists ever conducted regarding their levels of stress, resiliency, and well-being. Stress and Resiliency in the U.S. Judiciary highlighted a variety of methods judges use to promote their own well-being, as well as those methods about which judges expressed the greatest interest. This compendium of well-being strategies — all scientifically tested and evidence-based — was developed to provide judges and court personnel with straightforward information on how to better promote their individual resilience in the face of ongoing, unprecedented changes in our court systems.

Task Force Recommendations Implementation - Resources and News

Chief Justice Highlights Floyd County Courts' Work in Mental Health Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush discussed a number of counties in the state and their judiciaries on Wednesday in her address titled, "Indiana Courts' Return on Investment," and the first was Floyd. After the 2022 statewide Mental Health Summit in Indianapolis, Stiller and her team left the summit "inspired and committed to maintaining the momentum from that day's conversations." Floyd County Council and Commissioners agreed to leverage opioid settlement money to get matching state grants from the Division of Mental Health and Addiction. They also hired a full-time jail transition coordinator to assist the released inmates to get treatment.

Gillette Is Participating in a Pilot Program That Offers an Alternative for Those With Mental Health Struggle The Campbell County Adult Diversion Court is a secondary option for individuals in the criminal justice system facing mental health issues. It has just begun its two-year trial run. It is the only such program in the state. Chad Beeman, head of the Campbell County adult treatment courts, said the program began after reviewing a similar program in Miami. “So a group of individuals, mainly judges, went to Miami last year to observe a similar program. That's what ours is based off of, kind of their model, but obviously to fit our population,” said Beeman.

Vt. Judiciary Tackles Effort to Address Mental Health and Recidivism The intersection of mental health and criminal recidivism is behind a new effort spearheaded by the Vermont Judiciary to keep chronic re-offenders out of the court system. Vermont’s courts have seen a revolving door of cases involving low-level criminal offenders with drug and mental health issues. Channel 3 received an advanced copy of a report by the Vermont Judiciary Commission on Mental Health and the Courts that attempts to address the problems. “People who are committing these kinds of offenses are back and forth in the courts with great frequency and are frankly not getting the treatment that they need,” said Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Reiber. The report calls for implementing peer support services to better support offenders, creating state-wide training for anyone who interacts with people suffering from mental illness, and identifying the best places in the judicial process to intervene and identify mental health issues.

Research and Resources

Adults With Mental Illness Are Overrepresented in Probation Population Adults on probation—supervision imposed by the court generally in lieu of incarceration—are more than twice as likely to have a serious or moderate mental illness as those in the general public, according to analysis of federal data from 2015 to 2019 by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Most of these individuals also have a co-occurring substance use disorder, with the rate of adults on probation with both a mental illness and substance abuse disorder over five times that of adults in the public. But many probation agencies lack specialized training or tools to supervise them effectively.

Long-Term Solutions to the Overincarceration of People With Mental Health Disabilities Federal policymakers are currently focused on four separate categories of intervention to address the United States’ mental health crisis: 1) increased funding to train law enforcement personnel; 2) community responder programs; 3) alternative mental health emergency call centers; and 4) the creation of diversion and dispositional alternative programs. While some of these interventions can be helpful in the short term, they do not address the root causes of the mental health crisis. Community mental health services can help reduce crises and stabilize individuals within their own communities, as well as provide lasting supportive care.

How to Start a Treatment Court Alumni Program Toolkit There’s no better way to show continuing support for treatment court participants and the program than creating an alumni group. An active alumni group supports the work of the treatment court team and highlights for participants that recovery is possible. Robust alumni groups can directly support current participants and provide the lived experience and “walked in their shoes” perspective and recovery support. This toolkit provides step-by-step instructions and considerations for starting an alumni group for your treatment court program.

The Intersection of Law and Mental Health: A Call for Advocacy and Support The intersection of law and mental health is a complex and often contentious issue. It raises important questions about the treatment and rights of individuals with mental health conditions, as well as concerns about the role and impact of the legal system on psychiatric patients. This article aims to delve into these issues, exploring the challenges and potential ways forward.

Introduction to BJA’s Access and Recovery Peer Recovery Support Services Training and Technical Assistance Center This webinar will serve as an introduction to the Access and Recovery PRSS TTAC, as well as our partners (BJA, Faces & Voices of Recovery, and Change Matrix), and provide insight to the collaborative programming to be offered. We also hope that this gathering will serve as an opportunity for all attendees to provide feedback and input and facilitate ideas for future deliverables.

Windows of Wisdom: Shape Your Own Journey With Insights from Experienced Peers Watch these short videos to find valuable, firsthand advice from peer specialists who have many years of combined experience in the field. They include specific advice that these seasoned veterans would give to new peer specialists as they enter their careers. Find practical insights to help you grasp the different systems of care, navigate relationships, maintain peer support values, understand roles, establish boundaries, and much more. This resource was created in partnership between SMI Adviser and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD).

Reduced Drug Use is a Meaningful Treatment Outcome for People With Stimulant Use Disorders Reducing stimulant use was associated with significant improvement in measures of health and recovery among people with stimulant use disorder, even if they did not achieve total abstinence. This finding is according to an analysis of data from 13 randomized clinical trials of treatments for stimulant use disorders involving methamphetamine and cocaine. Historically, total abstinence has been the standard goal of treatment for substance use disorders, however, these findings support the growing recognition that a more nuanced perspective on measuring treatment success may be beneficial.

Insights From the Front Line—Police-led Deflection Programs Evidence from several studies, including a systematic review of more than 25 police-led diversion programs, indicates that police-led programs that deflect people with SUDs from the justice system can prevent criminal offending and show promise for improving participants’ health and reducing social and financial costs associated with processing drug-related offenses. Join us for a webinar led by our partners at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), where presenters will explain the benefits of addressing substance use disorders (SUDs) through deflection to treatment and services, discuss the work of their initiatives, and share best practices for collaborating with community partners.

Neurodiversity and the Mental Health Dilemma This is an investigation into the sources of contemporary policy difficulties managing problems experienced by the neurodivergent, aka "mental health issues." It begins with an examination of the sources of stigma towards neurodivergent individuals, and proceeds to an examination of failed policies of the past and their consequences (, e.g., homelessness following closure of prison-like insane asylums in the 1960s, spurred by then President John F. Kennedy). The study continues with an examination of the present state of mental and behavioral health policy structures, identifying shortcomings and promising new initiatives. The study concludes with some suggestions about possible community-based responses to the mental health crisis.

Supporting Individuals With Acquired Brain Injury Those with brain injury who are engaged in the justice system have a much higher rate of co-occurring conditions that further complicate their ability to be successful. These include behavioral health conditions such as mental illness and substance use, which the treatment courts are designed to address. Finally, a particular challenge is that justice-involved individuals often may not even be aware that a history of brain injury adds to their challenges. This toolkit provides a comprehensive overview of acquired brain injury and offers critical guidance on how treatment courts can respond.

Recent Incarceration, Substance Use, Overdose, and Service Use Among People Who Use Drugs in Rural Communities Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study of PWUD in rural areas, participants commonly experienced recent incarceration, which was not associated with MOUD, an effective and lifesaving treatment. The criminal legal system should implement effective SUD treatment in rural areas, including MOUD and provision of naloxone, to fully align with evidence-based SUD health care policies.

NRI Newsletter This edition includes a review of the five most popular State Profile reports from 2023, State Mental Health Agency Workforce Diversity Initiatives, 2022, SMHA Support for the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Continuum, 2022, State Mental Health Agency Peer Specialist Workforce, 2022, State Behavioral Health Agency Support for Mobile Crisis Teams, 2022, and State Behavioral Health Agency Support for Less than 24-Hour Crisis Receiving and Stabilization Facilities, 2022. A recent research listing is also included.

January Web Chat: AOT Judges This month’s specialized web chat is scheduled for Thursday, January 25 at 3 p.m. ET and is specifically for judges, magistrates, hearing officers, and other judicial leaders. We ask that all who do not fit into this group refrain from registering, with the promise that we will make the recording available to all. Please encourage your judge to participate!

CSG Justice Briefing Empowering alternatives to traditional first response; opportunities to expand treatment for substance use disorders in prisons; and more.

In the News

Hochul Doubles Down on Mental Health “Make no mistake, this is the defining challenge of our time,” she said while boasting her recent mental health proposals during Tuesday’s State of the State. The Governor’s State of the State also included 10 mental health initiatives which she presented as efforts to fight crime and homelessness. Those include creating a new Law Enforcement and Mental Health Coordination Team, increasing the number of mental health courts and heightening parole supervision for people with mental illness.

Chief Justice: Prioritize Public Defense, Problem Solving Courts and Help for Young Adults South Dakota should embrace the role of public defenders, work to guide young adults out of trouble’s way, try harder to protect judges from danger and support problem-solving alternative courts, South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen told lawmakers on Wednesday at the Capitol in Pierre. Jensen, as Noem did the day before in her State of the State address, took time to highlight the value of the state’s 17 drug, DUI, veterans and mental health courts. The “problem-solving courts” funnel people with felony charges into an 18- to 20-month program that offers intensive supervision and case management and regular check-ins with other court members.

Austin Mobile Court Takes Services on the Road to Keep Homeless People Out of Jail In August, the Austin City Council passed a resolution creating the mobile court pilot, bringing the court's services on the go — in hopes that more people will engage with its resources. The community court’s function is twofold: to resolve court cases and provide services. The court's case managers help people access housing, health care — including mental health and substance use treatment — and food benefits.  “We know that addressing the root cause of what may bring someone into our court … provides better outcomes for individuals accessing services and ultimately benefits the community overall,” Robert Kingham, the court’s administrator, said in a statement.

Mobile Crisis Response Team Helping Missoula Students Find Help A little over a year ago, Missoula County Youth Court partnered with Providence Montana and worked with the school district to create a mobile crisis response unit to better prevent students from entering the juvenile justice system and connect them to help. Missoula County Public Schools worked with the crisis team to create a procedure of when to call Gratch, who works “seamlessly” with school staff to de-escalate a situation and help students access other services. Gratch can also help students return to school after a behavioral-health-related hospitalization.


Judges and Compassion Fatigue: What Is It and What to Do About It Judges facing burnout often feel drained, as if they have nothing left to give, feel a lack of achievement, purpose and sense of hope. Some experience distrust or a sense of impending failure. Burnout is a disillusioning experience. Doing the minimum becomes a challenge. Unrelieved, burnout may harden into a fixed element of one’s outlook and depersonalization of cases one must deal with. When burnout is advanced, the judge's usual demeanor may harden and they may come across as detached.

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