Reducing Justice Involvement For People with Mental Illness.

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The Pennsylvania Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence is a collaborative effort of Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh. It is funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The purpose of the Center is to work with Pennsylvania communities to identify points of interception at which an intervention can be made to prevent individuals with mental illness from entering or penetrating deeper into the criminal justice system.

The Center will work collaboratively with the Commonwealth and locales in planning and implementing programs, providing information to promote their use of evidence-based practices and serve as a resource for technical assistance and training. The Center will also host a central repository for collected data and information on criminal justice/mental health responses throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Click here to view the official announcement of the PA Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence.

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Mental Health and Criminal Justice in the News

Spending on Treatment to Save on Incarceration (Houston Chronicle)

  • Drug policy has experienced an interesting shift recently. Along with legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, many states are also reducing penalties for nonviolent drug offenses and placing greater focus on treatment for drug users.

Severely mentally ill criminals: who goes to prison and who goes to psych institutions? (Health Canal)

  • A study shows that people with a severe mental disorder who commit a crime and who are incarcerated have different characteristics compared to people who are hospitalized after committing an offense.

Prop. 47 may keep addicts from using drug court's treatment program (Los Angeles Times)

  • Mothers, fathers and friends brought balloons and bouquets of flowers to celebrate the graduation of 18 people from one of Los Angeles County's drug courts, a program that offers drug addicts treatment instead of simply locking them up. But some fear that the passage of Proposition 47 last month has thrown the future of California's drug courts into doubt.

Keeping the Mentally Ill Out of Jail (The New York Times)

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious plan for cutting the number of mentally ill people in New York’s jails will require a great deal of ingenuity and a big shift in priorities by the police, the courts, and social service and housing agencies. If the effort succeeds, it will improve the lives of mentally ill people by getting them treatment and places to live instead of locking them into the “frequent flier” syndrome, in which they are repeatedly jailed for minor offenses, even when they present no threat to public safety.

Shrinking psych hospitals may be linked with rising prison populations (Reuters)

  • Reducing the number of beds in facilities for psychiatric patients is linked to an increase in prison populations, according to a new study. Mundt, who is affiliated with Queen Mary University of London, and his colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry that the theory of a connection between psychiatric bed availability and prison population was proposed in 1939 by English scholar Lionel Sharples Penrose.

New Efforts to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Disorders in Jails Set the Stage for Unprecedented Change (Council of State Governments Justice Center)

  • Congressional leaders committed to improving mental health services and public safety joined the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center on December 9, 2014 for a briefing on the new wave of national efforts to reduce the overwhelming number of people with mental disorders cycling through U.S. jails.
  • To view the national initiative, click here.

State prison system making changes to deal with mentally ill (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Khasiem, now 32, was one of more than 1,000 Pennsylvania inmates with mental illnesses kept in isolation for 90 days or more between May 2012 and May 2013. About 250 were in isolation for a year, causing "mental deterioration, psychotic decompensation, and acts of self-harm," according to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. Many, the department found, were in solitary because of their illnesses.

Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team Training Program Receives International Recognition (Council of State Governments Justice Center)

  • The Minnesota (MN) DOC formally adopted CIT in 2011 and was the first state prison system in the United States to introduce the program system-wide. The agency received a Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grant in 2013 to further support its implementation. MN DOC now has a total of 285 active CIT-trained staff and is well on its way to its goal of training 25 percent of security staff in each of the department’s 8 adult facilities.

'Recovery center' could replace jail for mentally ill offenders (Star Tribune)

  • Troubled by years of horrific and costly incidents at the Hennepin County jail, officials are proposing a sweeping overhaul of the way mentally ill adults are treated after being arrested, detained and funneled into the criminal justice system. Offenders with psychiatric disorders — many of whom are arrested repeatedly for minor nuisance offenses — would be diverted to a one-stop “recovery center” in south Minneapolis instead of winding up in jail.

Click here to find information by county including descriptive data (e.g. crime & mental health stats) and contact information for county agencies.

Click here to find program information by intercept.

Looking to have questions answered or to discuss issues with your peers in other counties? Our blog will give you the opportunity to initiate conversations with the Center of Excellence staff and your peers.

Click here to view our blog or start a conversation!

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