Behavioral Health and Equity

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.

Behavioral Health and Equity This leadership brief will provide a global overlay for the work around behavioral health equity with a focus on person-centered justice, cultural humility, and the importance of the courts taking an active role in these areas. This focus is not only more humane but will make behavioral health and court systems more effective and efficient.

Task Force Recommendations Implementation - Resources and News

Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative (JPLI) Leadership Summit In 2021, the Judges’ and Psychiatrists’ Leadership Initiative (JPLI) established two awards in honor of the late Judge Stephen S. Goss. The awards are presented during the annual JPLI Leadership Summit to judges and psychiatrists who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in improving the lives of people with behavioral health needs in the criminal justice system. These awards acknowledge Judge Goss’s tireless efforts to rethink how judges handle cases for defendants with behavioral health needs.

This in-person convening in New York will include the presentation of the Judge Goss, Lifetime Achievement, and the new Team award. The summit will include a conversation with JPLI Leadership and experts about the Mental Health Task Force in New York, how judges and psychiatrists can collaborate to improve outcomes for people with mental illness, and how to address misconceptions about people with mental illness.

Research and Resources

AOT Judges Chat Please plan to participate in the next Assisted Outpatient Treatment Judge’s web chat on Thursday, May 23 at 3 p.m. ET. The goal of these chats is to give you an opportunity to make connections, bounce ideas off of one another and ask those questions only a seasoned peer can answer. Whether you’ve been involved in AOT a long time, short time, or are still on the fence, this meeting is for you! Please note this is a closed group for members of the judiciary only.

2024 SAMHSA Mental Health Awareness Month Toolkit This toolkit was created with SAMHSA partners in mind. All materials are designed to be shared with your audiences and across your media channels; they are downloadable and shareable, and some of the material is customizable.

Factors Contributing to the Delayed Submission of Competence to Stand Trial Reports and the Jail-Based Competency Crisis in Washington This study examined rates of CST evaluation delays in Washington State and evaluator-cited barriers to timely report submission for jail-based CST evaluations. The study used data from N = 17,874 court-ordered jail-based CST evaluations and N = 1,739 Good Cause Exception (e.g., extension) requests submitted by forensic evaluators to local courts from June 2018 to November 2022. Findings identify the primary psychologist-listed barriers to timely completion of forensic mental health evaluations, providing a first look at areas for policy and practice intervention. These findings are timely given the current backlog crisis in the legal system with respect to forensic mental health evaluations and subsequent treatment services.

Veterans Treatment Courts: Broadening Eligibility for Veterans Convicted of Violent Offenses While a step in the right direction, most of these courts categorically exclude violent offenders for eligibility. Many jurisdictions conflate violent offenses with serious offenses, even when many violent offenses lack any physical harm. Additionally, prosecutors wield almost unbridled discretion in determining whether or not someone is charged with an offense considered to be violent, determining VTC eligibility even before a case reaches a sentencing hearing. This comment argues for admitting veterans convicted of violent offenses into VTCs. This comment compares VTCs that exclude violent offenses with those that include them and argues that a standard-based approach serves public safety and the needs of a justice-involved veteran better than a rule-based approach that categorically excludes violent offenses.

The Adolescent Mental Health Crisis: A Case Study in Family Court Planning The article focuses on addressing the adolescent mental health crisis within the framework of family court planning, particularly in the context of parental separation and divorce. It emphasizes the need for comprehensive planning processes within family courts to integrate Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) as a central strategy for tackling this crisis effectively. It seeks to enhance mental health services for adolescents involved in family court proceedings.

JPLI Newsletter Fourth Annual JPLI Leadership Summit Registration; 2024 Judge Stephen S. Goss Memorial Award Winners, Judges' Guide to Mental Illnesses in the Courtroom; and more.

CSG Justice Briefing New nationwide analysis on recidivism; CSG Justice Center briefs Congress; new proposed HUD rule; and more.

In the News

988 Mental Health Crisis Calls May Soon Be Routed Based on Location Rather Than Area Code A new federal rule requiring telecom companies to use a call's location for 988 routing—as opposed to the phone number's area code—is expected to pass soon. The change is projected to improve both response times and connection to local care, when needed.

Maryland – Permanent Funding for 988 Passes Advocates and legislators today applauded final passage in the Maryland General Assembly of legislation that establishes a permanent funding source for the state’s 988 helpline system. The bill establishes a new 25 cents per month 988 telecom fee modeled after the funding mechanism for 911. This nominal fee on cell phone and landlines will generate more than $25 million each year and will allow the state’s 988 call centers to hire more staff, invest in technology, and prepare for continued growth in the demand for 988 and behavioral health services.

Governor Signs Seth’s Law, Advancing Mental Health Reforms in KY Named in honor of the late Seth Stevens, former attorney for the Kentucky Judicial Commission on Mental Health (KJCMH), Seth’s Law aims to improve guardianship and competency proceedings across the commonwealth. Kentucky Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Debra Hembree Lambert, chair of the commission, said she takes pride in the cooperative efforts of the KJCMH, which have led to two significant changes in state law. “Seth’s Law will result in fewer citizens needing to be placed under state guardianship to access health care,” Justice Lambert said. “The other portion of the law will address significant delays in criminal trials by streamlining competency evaluation processes at our state facilities. Seth’s Law will result in more prompt evaluations and less delay in these criminal cases.” HB 385 will allow outpatient competency evaluations in various settings, including jails and community facilities. The diversification of evaluation locations is geared toward alleviating the strain on KCPC. With a waitlist averaging 12 months, capacity issues have hindered timely assessments, affecting defendants and the judicial system.

County Rushes to Get Mental Health Diversion Center and Lawyers at Bail Hearings After a years-long ideation process, plans are finally firming up for a facility that would provide an alternative to jail for people experiencing mental health crises. Last week, however, the ACLU filed suit against the county for a potential constitutional rights violation: The county does not provide attorneys at bail hearings, a practice called “counsel at first appearance” (CAFA). Linking the two issues, the diversion center design could also require a new central booking facility, to divert people at the time of booking to avoid a criminal record. In a press release last week, Sheriff Sally Hernandez noted that “a new Central Booking facility … benefits not only the diversion center, but also CAFA.” Commissioner Ann Howard agreed, saying in the meeting, “to me, it’s imperative that we walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Novel Mental Illness Court Offering Aid Struggles to Find Takers Some counties braced for a deluge of petitions that didn’t come. Los Angeles County public defender Ricardo GarcĂ­a, for example, projected at a November press conference that 4,500 Angelenos could be petitioned into CARE Court in its first year. At the end of March, about four months after the county’s CARE Court launch, only 109 petitions were filed. However, the California Health & Human Services Agency said in a report released in April that the numbers are “in line with expectations and allow the courts and counties to effectively manage the resources needed to serve the population.”


Don’t Believe the Naysayers: Hybrid Remote Work Is Improving Employees’ Mental Health Groundbreaking research at the University of Pittsburgh, examining data across multiple U.S. states involving more than 5 million mental health screens, brings new insights into how the structure of workplace flexibility can significantly influence mental wellbeing. The Pitt study reveals significant findings for 2023, a fully post-pandemic year. States with a higher percentage of flexible firms show considerably lower rates of depression. The correlation is significant and robust, telling a compelling story about greater flexibility facilitating mental wellness.

5 Strategies for Improving Mental Health at Work Today, improving workplace mental health involves tackling how, why, and where we work. Pat advice on putting your phone away in the evening or scheduling your emails feels so 2020. So, get specific and focus on the work product you need and how you can better support the employees involved.

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Please contact Rick Schwermer.


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