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.

News and Information
County and Program Information
Center of Excellence Blog
Resource Center

Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act Amended

  • In March 2014,House Bill 21 (PN 114) passed the Senate unanimously and was subsequently signed by Governor Corbett. This amendment to the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA) permits a licensed psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist to perform the examination regarding competence to stand trial and/or mental state at the time of the offense under Section 402 and 404 of the Mental Health Procedures Act. Previously these evaluations could be conducted only by psychiatrists, under the MHPA.

Center of Excellence-Authored Article Published in Psychiatric Services

  • Cross, A. B., Mulvey, E. P., Schubert, C. A., Griffin, P. A., Filone, S., Winckworth-Prejsnar, K., DeMatteo, D. & Heilbrun, K. (2014). An Agenda for Advancing Research on Crisis Intervention Teams for Mental Health Emergencies. Psychiatric Services, 65(4), 530-536. The article was authored by the staff of the Center of Excellence. It analyzes previous literature on CIT and offers recommendations for future research.

Upcoming Webinars

Evidence-Based Practices for Justice-Involved Persons: A Five-Part Webinar Series

  • Presented by SAMHA's GAINS Center. Cutting edge updates by leading researchers on the current empirical research on five key Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs) for justice-involved persons with behavioral health disorders. Complementing each researcher, nationally-recognized practitioners putting these EBPs to use in the field every day.
    • “Forensic Assertive Community Treatment: Updating the Evidence”
      • January 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm EST
    • “Supported Employment for Justice-Involved People with Mental Illness”
      • February 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm EST
    • “Illness Management and Recovery”
      • March 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm EST
    • “Integrating Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for Justice-Involved Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders”
      • April 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm EST
    • “Reducing Criminal Recidivism for Justice-Involved Persons with Mental Illness: Risk/Needs/Responsivity and Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions”
      • May 12, 2014 1:00 pm EST

Mental Health and Criminal Justice in the News

Commissioner stresses value of state hospitals (Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA)

  • After the announcement of the planned removal of 14 beds at the Clarks Summit State Hospital during a Fairchild Hearing March 25, Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O’Malley believes more beds, not less are needed at the facility. “I have spoken to different psychologists and doctors who said there is absolutely a need for state hospitals,” O’Malley said. “A state hospital is an option we should have in the community. “If there is a reduction to the number of beds, there is a reduction of opportunities for individuals to be treated and they end up back on the streets and commit criminal activities.”

McAuliffe signs mental health overhaul (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

  • Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed legislation that will reform key elements of Virginia’s emergency mental health system and help to ensure that psychiatric treatment beds are available to individuals in crisis situations.

The Mentally Ill, Behind Bars (NY Times)

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio and his new correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, have inherited a city jail system in which nearly 40 percent of the 12,000 inmates have mental illnesses — up from about a quarter just seven years ago. Yet despite the stark shift, the system has not been redesigned to serve the complex needs of inmates with mental illnesses. To remedy this shameful problem, the mayor and the commissioner need to focus on three areas: improving mental health care behind bars; ensuring that all mentally ill inmates are enrolled in Medicaid before they are released, so they have access to care and medication; and encouraging the growth of an important new program that steers mentally ill people who present no danger to the public into mental health programs instead of jail.

Advocate warns against restricting access to guns for mentally ill (Meadville Tribune)

  • In the aftermath of another mass shooting and an inevitable debate over gun laws, a mental health advocate and gun control lobbyist are warning against unfairly restricting the mentally ill from accessing firearms. “We have to strike a balance between civil rights and public safety," said Deb Shoemaker, executive director of the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society, who served on a state advisory panel on violence prevention, after the mass shooting in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Americans, weary of war on drugs, prefer rehab to jail, poll says (Christian Science Monitor)

  • In a significant shift, a new poll finds that two-thirds of Americans favor drug policies that emphasize treatment, not prison sentences, for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

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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