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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Violence and Behavioral Health: Developing an Evidence-Informed Community Agenda (10/27/14; 8:30 AM ET; Sheraton Station Square in Pittsburgh, PA)

  • Edward P. Mulvey, Ph.D., Co-Director of the PA Mental Health & Justice CoE, will be the keynote speaker at the Violence and Behavioral Health conference in Pittsburgh, PA on October 27, 2014. Dr. Mulvey’s keynote address is entitled “Responding to the Overlap of Mental Illness and Violence.” For additional information and registration, follow the link above or go directly to the “Services & Training” tab on our website.

Upcoming Webinars

None listed at this time.

Mental Health and Criminal Justice in the News

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, it’s 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 Arizona’s 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. They’re 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 — 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. That’s 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.

Allegheny County Jail and Pittsburgh Mercy Collaborate to Reduce Recidivism (

  • Breaking the cycle of jail and prison re-entry is not an easy process, especially for repeat offenders. There are lifestyle choices that need to be considered and often times avoided. But that requires the right behavioral coaching and support. The Allegheny County Jail runs a collaborative program with Pittsburgh Mercy Health System which was recently evaluated by the Urban Institute in Washington D.C. and found to successfully reduce recidivism.

Majority of U.S. Prisoners Incarcerated 'Due To Behaviors Linked To Treatable Diseases' (Newsroom America)

  • The United States has the world?s highest incarceration rate with more than 2 million people behind bars, and researchers say many of those people need to be in prison for the safety of society, but a majority are incarcerated due to behaviors linked to treatable diseases. Scott A. Allen, MD, a professor of medicine in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, and his colleagues report that while many people need to be in prison for the safety of society, a majority are incarcerated due to behaviors linked to treatable diseases such as mental illness and addiction.

SAMHSA Conference Considers Connections between Community and Criminal Justice Health Systems (The Council of State Governments Justice Center)

  • This September conference gathered government officials, program administrators, and health care professionals to explore improving information sharing between community health care providers and criminal justice health systems.

Get out of jail: The tough part for ex-inmates is how to stay out (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Crime, punishment and recidivism usually go hand-in-hand in the criminal justice system. Returning to jail or prison shortly after release is the norm for far too many offenders. Lacking job skills and employment opportunities, these men and women often return to homes and communities where they are unable to resist repeating many of the crimes that landed them behind bars in the first place. But according to a study by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, inmates who participated in one of two programs offered by the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative were less likely to be re-arrested by 24 percentage points, compared to inmates who didn?t take part.

Why Are We Using Prisons to Treat the Mentally Ill? (The Nation)

  • This fall, we?ve partnered with the ACLU and Brave New Films to launch OverCriminalized, a video series highlighting the many social problems that we surprisingly expect the criminal justice system to solve. Focusing on mental illness, housing and drug dependency, the series sheds light on the damage done when we criminalize social problems and profiles innovative solutions that have proven to be far more effective than throwing people in jail.
  • To watch the video series, click here.

BJA Awards 34 New Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grants (The Council of State Governments Justice Center)

  • The U.S. Department of Justice?s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) recently issued 34 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grant awards to jurisdictions across 28 states. These awards total more than $6 million in grants to support state, local, and tribal governments in improving responses to people with mental disorders who are involved with the criminal justice system.

A Mental Health Crisis Shouldn?t End in a Jail Cell (The Nation)

  • The state of mental health services in this country is unacceptable. Instead of social workers, we have armed law enforcement officers. Instead of treatment facilities, we have prisons and jails. More than half of the people behind bars have shown recent symptoms of mental health problems. The Cook County jail in Chicago is now the biggest single-facility provider of mental health services in the country. Nearly $9 billion per year is spent locking up people struggling with mental illness. And 356,368 severely mentally ill people were imprisoned in 2012.

SAMHSA's Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach

  • SAMHSA's Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach, prepared by SAMHSA?s Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative, introduces a concept of trauma and offers a framework for how an organization, system, service sector can become trauma informed by integrating the perspectives of researchers, practitioners, and people with lived experience of trauma.
  • To download the document in PDF format, click here.

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.

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