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Judicial Task Force studying serious mental illness releases final report and recommendations

Molly Justice
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Judicial Task Force studying serious mental illness releases final report and recommendations

Williamsburg, Va. (Oct. 25, 2022) – After a multi-year investigation, the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness today is releasing its findings and recommendations to assist state courts in responding to the needs of court-involved individuals with serious mental illness.

The report notes that people with mental illnesses in the U.S. are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than they are to be hospitalized. Every year, approximately two million arrests are made of people with serious mental illnesses. On any given day, approximately 380,000 people with mental illnesses are in jail or prison across the U.S., and another 574,000 are under some form of correctional supervision.

“The prevalence of mental illness in the United States has an enormous impact on states and communities and a disproportionate impact on our state and local courts,” said Paul L. Reiber, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont and task force co-chair.

“The needs of adults, children and families impacted by serious mental illness touches every aspect of the court system,” said Lawrence K. Marks, chief administrative judge of New York and task force co-chair. “While the statistics can be overwhelming and the challenges immense, a national focus on the problems has created a great momentum for change.”

Among the recommendations from the task force, state courts should:

  • Convene justice and behavioral health system partners to identify opportunities to collaboratively improve our responses to individuals with behavioral health disorders.
  • Proactively promote processes to identify and divert individuals with behavioral health disorders at every stage of system involvement towards treatment and away from further penetration into the criminal justice system.
  • Examine current case management and calendaring practices for all types of cases and implement strategies to more quickly and effectively address issues presented in cases involving individuals with behavioral health needs.

“Every day, mental health and substance use conditions experienced by so many Americans can have even harder impacts on those who are involved with the justice system,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the U.S. Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Collaborating with state courts to help individuals access effective treatments in correctional facilities is an important and timely strategy for helping to address the nation’s behavioral health crisis.”

The recommendations were recently endorsed by the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators. The two bodies of state court leaders praised the task force’s work in a joint resolution adopted earlier this summer.

A virtual report launch and policy discussion takes place today, Tuesday, October 25, 2022, at 4 p.m. ET. Speakers will highlight the potential impacts of the recommendations and the effective partnerships created between the nation’s state courts and key federal agencies involved with the needs of individuals living with serious mental illness. Get more information about the event and register.

For additional information about the task force or future plans to implement these recommendations, contact Patti Tobias.