ICYMI - NEW RESOURCE: Judges' Guide to Mental Health Diversion

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.

ICYMI - NEW RESOURCE: Judges' Guide to Mental Health Diversion This new guide is intended to serve as a resource framework for courts and judges to use to promote and implement diversion strategies for individuals with behavioral health needs in their communities. Ideally, judges would collaborate with a range of system stakeholders to examine the entire diversion continuum but could also focus on one step of the process at a time. This guide focuses on jail diversion systems, post arrest, and pre plea.

Task Force Recommendations Implementation - Resources and News

For Too Many With Mental Illness, Incarceration is the Default Collectively as a nation, we must consider what public safety really looks like today—and how it can be made better for us all. Our criminal justice system is filled with people who bounce through courts, jails, prisons, parole, and probation—people who need mental health and substance use care to prevent them from re-entering the system at a cost to them and to society. Indeed, it’s the very care that could have prevented them from entering the criminal justice system from the start if only they had received attention they needed and deserve. From the 988 system to new funding opportunities for services geared for those re-entering society from jails and prisons, we have the tools to make a difference.

How a Philanthropic Foundation is Working to Decriminalize Mental Health In 2019, the healthcare company Otsuka launched the Sozosei Foundation, a philanthropic arm established to fund the decriminalization of mental illness. The Sozosei Foundation uses traditional and non-traditional philanthropic approaches to hasten the decriminalization of mental illness in the United States. That includes funding access to care, research, scaling diversion innovations, and arts and communication. Their expertise fuels the foundation’s push for social change. “We have to make the narrative shift to help society reject the status quo and join a movement to decriminalize mental health and create more access to care in the community.”

First-of-Its-Kind Mental Health Center Debuts in Miami The Miami Center for Health and Recovery is preparing to open its doors. The project, at 2200 NW Seventh Avenue in Miami, has been 13 years in the making. Conceived by Judge Steven Leifman, an associate administrative judge in the criminal division of the 11th Circuit Court of Florida, and designed by James Cohen of SBLM Architects, the center could now serve as a template for other cities seeking to serve and treat people with mental illness who otherwise would end up homeless or incarcerated. The new center also is expected to yield significant cost savings and relieve pressure on the criminal justice system in Miami, by helping to keep those with mental illnesses out of county jails.

Research and Resources

Adult Treatment Court Best Practice Standards The second edition of the newly renamed Adult Treatment Court Best Practice Standards will be released in two parts: Standards I-VI are available now, and Standards VII-X will be released in 2024. The second edition incorporates best practices discerned over the past decade in a range of adult treatment court models, addresses frequently asked questions from the field, builds on the experiences and observations of All Rise faculty and audiences, and provides in-depth commentary and practical tips to help programs implement best practices in their day-to-day operations. Importantly, no provision from the first edition of the standards has been retracted or found to be erroneous in subsequent studies.

Apply Now: Multi-Track Treatment Court Training This two-day, virtual training provides the building blocks for adding tracks in your treatment court to serve all risk and need populations. Research proves that assessing for risk and need level is critical for placement into an appropriate program or level of treatment and supervision and that placing people in appropriate tracks to address their individuals’ risks and needs results in reduced recidivism and other positive outcomes.

Ten Things Risk/Needs Assessment Is Not Because the benefits to justice-involved clients and the public are so clear, the value of good risk/needs assessment seems self-evident. In actual practice, however, something seems to get lost. Too often, the inclusion of risk/needs assessment has not sufficiently transformed supervision work. Despite the best efforts of all involved, the promised reductions in offending remain elusive. However, decades of research show that—if adhered to—the RNR principles are sound and that improved supervision out- comes are achievable.

Building Successful Partnerships With Peer-Run Organizations Behavioral health-criminal justice programs that partner with peer-run organizations have been able to leverage their unique expertise in furthering program participants’ recovery, promoting systems change, and strengthening the peer workforce. But often, programs do not know where to start to ensure they are developing a successful partnership. This brief details information gleaned from interviews with two peer-run organizations engaged in Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program-funded projects and provides resources to help programs locate peer-run organizations locally.

Missing Pieces of the Benefits Puzzle: Analyzing SSA's Disability Benefits Framework and Its Exclusion of Americans With Substance Abuse Disorders SSA’s definition of disability, in the context of qualifying for disability benefits, should be expanded to once again include substance use disorders. Congress’s enactment of restrictions on beneficiaries with substance use disorders may have been the correct response to an increase in drug and alcohol abuse among Americans, but almost thirty years later, it is time to reevaluate whether this is still the correct approach. Current medical diagnostic standards—namely, the DSM-5—are more expansive and explicitly describe substance use disorder as a disability, whereas they did not when the CAAA was enacted.

Most U.S. Adults Remain Unaware of 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Only 13% of adults in the U.S. have heard of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and know its purpose nine months after its launch, according to a nationally representative survey conducted for The Pew Charitable Trusts. The extent to which people contact 988 may depend on their perceptions of whether negative consequences might result. People with mental health issues were more concerned than those without mental health issues that law enforcement would be sent (56% versus 40%), they would be forced to go to the hospital (55% versus 38%), they’d incur costs they couldn’t pay (49% versus 35%), and that others would find out (46% versus 36%).

JPLI Newsletter Includes a report on a new resource Improving Outcomes for People Who Are “Familiar Faces” in Georgia and New Mexico, information on advancing racial equity in their justice, crisis, and behavioral health systems, and more.

Catching Up With COSSUP Taken together, the articles in this, the final issue of Catching Up With COSSUP for 2023, speak to the underlying soundness of COSSUP responses to substance misuse and the resourcefulness and flexibility that COSSUP grantees demonstrate in applying those responses to their own communities. What connects theory to practice—what makes COSSUP work, what sustains it and gives it dimension—is the commitment of real people who are dedicated wholly to the health and wellbeing of their fellow community members.

The 2024 Peer Recovery Support Services Mentoring Initiative is Now Accepting Applications for Mentee Sites Up to 15 mentee programs will be selected and matched with mentor sites experienced in implementing PRSS programs. Mentee sites selected through this application process will receive consultation and support from their assigned mentor, culminating in an in-person visit to their mentor site. The PRSSMI will cover travel fees for up to three (3) team members from each mentee site.

In the News

Campbell County Creates New Adult Diversion Court Program The Campbell County Adult Diversion Court was officially created this week and will get started in the beginning of 2024. Campbell County was selected by the state to be the site of a pilot program for individuals who have treatable mental health issues. If it’s successful, it could be replicated in other communities around the state. County Attorney Nathan Henkes said there may be up to eight people in the program at any given time. He said the number of stakeholders involved in this project is “absolutely amazing.” They range from the Wyoming Judicial Branch, Wyoming Department of Health and Wyoming Department of Corrections to local law enforcement agencies.

‘We Can’t Ignore Reality,’ Judge Says, as Court Launches Mental Health Program Starting next month, a new mental health court program in Las Vegas Justice Court is being set up to help address those problems in Clark County, by offering treatment to defendants with mental illness who have committed misdemeanors. District Judge Bita Yeager said she’s hopeful the new justice court program will alleviate some of the burden on her own program. Mental health courts have been shown to reduce recidivism rates, and are less costly in the long run than incarcerating someone in jail or prison, Yeager said. “Overall it’s kind of a win, win, win,” she said. “It costs less, it’s great for community safety, and it also improves the participants who are in the program.”

Role Of 9-1-1 In Mental Health Emergencies To Be Studied In PA Pennsylvania state legislators earlier this month approved a study of how the 911 system can better assist people experiencing a mental health crisis. The bill’s language directs legislative commissions to examine the 911 system and how it might integrate into the new 988 system, a suicide and crisis hotline launched nationwide in July 2022. It also requires the study to recommend “standards and procedures which should be followed when a behavioral health crisis is routed to 988 as an alternative to law enforcement,” and requires the recommendations to consider potential cultural and linguistic barriers between responders and the person in crisis.

‘A Very Long Time Coming’: API Launches New Programs for Mentally Ill Defendants Officials at Alaska Psychiatric Institute, the state’s sole psychiatric hospital, say they plan to double the facility’s capacity to treat felony-level criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial. A separate program will offer treatment for people facing less serious misdemeanors — a change from the current practice of largely dismissing such charges. Defendants facing misdemeanor charges will now have the opportunity to go through an outpatient restoration program that aims to connect them with the state’s mental health court, where they will have access to additional resources and services, Becker said. Rather than punishment for misdemeanor offenses, the new outpatient program aims to offer community oversight, legal restoration, and access to additional support, she said.

GUEST OPINION: Public Safety, Justice, and Mental Health The path to safer communities in Colorado requires drastic improvements in the treatment of those with significant mental health disorders. Compared with other states, Colorado provides woefully inadequate behavioral health treatment for people in need. That unfortunate reality is reflected in many cases in our criminal justice system. As district attorneys representing a diverse population of roughly 2.7 million Coloradans, we come together to urge the state Legislature to immediately address the backlog of cases at the State Hospital in Pueblo, to mandate treatment for those found permanently incompetent to stand trial, and to significantly increase resources for mental health services in the justice system.

Mental Health Courts Can Struggle to Fulfill Decades-Old Promise Advocates, attorneys, clinicians, and researchers said courts such as the one Brown is navigating can struggle to live up to their promise. The diversion programs, they said, are often expensive and resource-intensive, and serve fewer than 1% of the more than 2 million people who have a serious mental illness and are booked into U.S. jails each year. People can feel pressured to take plea deals and enter the courts, seeing the programs as the only route to get care or avoid prison time. The courts are selective, due in part to political pressures on elected judges and prosecutors. Participants must often meet strict requirements that critics say aren’t treatment-focused, such as regular hearings and drug screenings.

N.J. Has a New Diversion Program for People With Mental Illness Who Commit Certain Types of Crimes A New Jersey bill is now law that will create a statewide program to divert some people with certified mental illnesses who commit certain crimes into a special treatment program rather than sending them to prison. The law stipulates individuals are typically not eligible for the program if they have committed a crime involving violence or the threat of violence, if the crime or offense involves the violation of any restraining order or protective order of another person, or when the crime victim of the offense objects to the diversion. To qualify for the new diversion program, an eligible person must agree in writing to certain terms and conditions and the prosecutor would determine the duration of the person’s participation in the program, not to exceed two years.

Behavioral Health, the Bench, and Beyond This Illinois courts newsletter highlights behavioral health related efforts currently underway, including leading change in fitness to stand trial systems, promoting civil pathways to outpatient mental health care, and improving Illinois courts’ response to mental Illness and co-occurring substance use disorders.


Creating a Supportive Work Environment: Prioritizing Mental Health in Miami's Professional Settings In 2022, 81% of workers report that workplace stress affects their mental health, compared to 78% of respondents in 2021. Seventy-three percent of workers report that workplace stress affects relationships with family, friends, or co-workers. The first step toward addressing mental health in the workplace is acknowledging its significance. Employers must recognize that the mental well-being of their workforce directly impacts productivity, employee retention, and overall organizational success.

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