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

Lackawanna County Prison Board concerned about suicides (The Times-Tribune)

  • Three inmates have taken their own lives at Lackawanna County Prison so far this year, prompting concerns from the prison board about whether the jail is doing enough for mentally ill prisoners.

Running metro jail is like managing mental hospital (

  • Madison County Metro Jail has essentially become a replacement mental hospital, and managing the incarcerated people (the bulk of whom have drug and alcohol-related health problems) is an enormous challenge, Sheriff Blake Dorning said.

Which US States Imprison More People Per Capita Than Russia Or China? (The Huffington Post)

  • Russia has 475 inmates per 100,000 residents as of 2013, and China has 121. Those numbers are much lower than states like Louisiana (893 per 100,000), Mississippi (717), and Alabama (650). Oklahoma (648) and Texas (601) are also significantly higher than Russia or China.

Mental Health Ruling in Washington State Could Reverberate through the Country (Governing)

  • Emergency rooms have become a place of last resort for the mentally ill. With increased demand on proper mental health facilities, the practice known as psychiatric boarding -- temporarily holding mentally ill patients in hospital ERs until beds become available at certified treatment centers -- has become a serious problem nationwide. Now, itís an unconstitutional one in Washington state.

The Sesame Street Lesson for Physicians (Science 2.0)

  • More than 2,000,000 people are incarcerated in the United States, the highest incarceration rate in the world. It was only a matter of time before Sesame Street introduced a character that has an incarcerated father. What could that possibly have to do with health care inequality? Scott A. Allen, MD, a professor of medicine in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, and colleagues write that a majority of criminals are incarcerated due to behaviors linked to treatable diseases such as mental illness and addiction.

Rethinking Solitary Confinement (The Washington Post)

  • Every day, state and federal prison authorities subject tens of thousands of inmates to solitary confinement. Those who go in can come out disturbed. Those who go in with pre-existing mental illnesses often get worse. Slowly and unevenly, however, the system is changing, or, at times, being forced to change. The latest is that Arizonaís Department of Corrections has struck a deal with the American Civil Liberties Union requiring several reforms in its solitary confinement policy. Mentally ill inmates will now be allowed at least 19 hours a week outside their cells, three of which must contain appropriate, structured activities.

A Washington Prison Unit Where 'No One Picks On You for Being Slow' (

  • Prison is no place to be vulnerable. For inmates with intellectual disabilities, autism or traumatic brain injury, it can be dangerous. Theyíre easily be exploited their peers and they have trouble remembering rules, which can lead to disciplinary action and segregation from other inmates. Bradley Fulton, an inmate at the Washington Correction Center in Shelton, is in the Skill Building Unit, a small prison program in Washington state that has been attempting to better address the needs of this special population for the past year. Fulton said in this unit no one picks on you for being slow.

Escaping the Mental-Health Abyss

  • Late one Friday night in March, the Fish Tale Brew Pub in Everett called police to bounce a woman acting erratically. On their way out, the woman, Ara Badayos, slapped an officer ó a felony assault charge. She has at least a dozen psychiatric commitments, many misdemeanor crimes and two prior felonies, including assaulting a psychiatric nurse. Badayos was dropped squarely into the netherworld between the criminal justice and mental-health systems. She has company: There are 10 times as many mentally ill people behind bars as in hospitals in the U.S. Thatís the real crime. But in the seven months since that night, her case went badly enough that it just might bring much-needed reform to the way Washington jails people with serious mental illness.

Fixing the Broken Mental Health System

  • One of the great public health challenges in America today is that of untreated and poorly treated serious mental illness. Jails and prisons have become principal places where many people with chronic mental illness arrive in the absence of alternatives. Access to humane mental health and substance use treatment must be provided in local, community-based treatment settings, not jails or prisons, nursing homes, shelters, or long-term hospitals. The mental health 'system', such as it is, needs to be re-engineered to deliver alternatives to inpatient care such as intensive community treatment teams and crisis services.

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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