Mental Illness Program Could Transform L.A. County Justice System

From the LA Times

Los Angeles officials announced Wednesday the launch of an alternative sentencing program aimed at diverting mentally ill, low-level offenders from jail into treatment, a project they hope will signal a dramatic shift for the county’s criminal justice system..

The $756,000 initiative marks one of the county’s most significant attempts to find a better way to treat people who have mental illness and wind up in the criminal justice system by offering them transitional housing, medical treatment and job-hunting help. Officials say the pilot program will start in Van Nuys and initially help 50 people at a time, but it is expected to spread throughout the county and could accommodate up to 1,000 people at once.

The program is designed to reduce jail overcrowding and end a revolving door for offenders with mental illness who find themselves incarcerated for relatively minor crimes.

“It is time to stop bouncing people who are mentally ill and genuinely sick between the streets and our jails,” said Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey. “This is an unconscionable waste of human life and money.”

Read the full article HERE

Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, City Atty. Mike Feuer and L.A. County Superior Court Presiding Judge David Wesley, right, at a news conference on the pilot mental health diversion program, which they support. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Two Pending Congressional Bills On Mental Illness

English: An American Lady butterfly against a ...

English: An American Lady butterfly against a cloud-filled sky. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which of the two Bills do you endorse?

The Murphy Bill Empowers Parents and Caregivers:

  • Clarifies the Health Information Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) privacy rule and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It would allow physicians and mental health professionals can provide crucial information to parents and caregivers about a loved one in an Acute mental health crisis to protect their health, safety, and wellbeing.
  • Unlike private health insurance or Medicare, Medicaid will not reimburse for inpatient medical care at a psychiatric facility with more than 16 beds (IMD Institute for Mental Disease).  The bill will increase access to inpatient psychiatric care for the most critically ill patients by making narrowly tailored exceptions to the IMD.
  • Promotes alternatives to long-term inpatient care, such as court-ordered “Assisted Outpatient Treatment.” AOT allows the court to direct treatment in the community for the hardest to treat patients-fewer than 1 percent of the people with SMI (severe mental illness) who have a history of arrest, repeat hospitalizations, and violence, because of their illness. AOT has reduced rates of imprisonment, homelessness, substance abuse, and costly emergency room visits for chronically mentally ill participants of upward to 70 percent. It has reduced Medicaid costs by 46 percent for participants.
  • Modeled on a successful state project in Massachusetts, the bill advances tele-psychiatry to link pediatricians and primary care physicians with psychologists.
  • Creates an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders position within the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate federal government programs and ensure recipients of the community mental health service block grant use evidence-based models of care.
  • Emphasizes evidence-based treatments, reforms and unauthorized programs, and strengthens congressional oversight of all behavioral health grants. Applies rigorous quality standards for a new class of Federally Qualified Behavioral Health Clinics.
  • Protects patients who are treated in the healthcare system from being warehoused in the criminal justice system. Mental health courts are provided cost-effective and responsible alternatives to incarcerating the MI.
  • Protects certain classes of drugs, commonly used to treat mental illness, so physicians are able to prescribe the right medication for those on Medicare and Medicaid.
  • The Department of Education will undertake a national campaign aimed at reducing the stigma of Severe Mental Illness in schools. Reauthorizes the Garrett Lee Smith suicide prevention program.
  •  Extends the Health Information Technology Incentive program to mental health providers.
  • Eliminates federal legal barriers under the Federal Tort Claims Act that prevent physician volunteerism at community mental health clinics and federally qualified health centers.

 Contact: Congressman Tim Murphy ~

The Ron Barber Bill – “Strengthening Mental Health in our Communities.” Bill would increase mental health funding for veterans and active-duty service members.

  • Create “Mental Health First Aid” programs in schools and communities.
  • Create a White House Office of Mental Health Policy.
  • Make hospital care more accessible to seniors with mental illness.
  • Require Medicare to cover and treat mental health hospitalizations. Currently Medicare sets a 190-day lifetime cap on inpatient psychiatric care.
  • Create a new Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders.
  • Requires that states that get federal mental health grants to change their standards for involuntary psychiatric commitment, allowing people to be hospitalized against their will, when they need treatment.
  • Provide families with more information about their loved one’s care.
  • Allow hospitals to be reimbursed for short term care including IMD’s.

Contact: Congressman Ron Barber ~

Less Recidivism Found in Offenders Processed Through Mental Health Court

From Psychiatric News Alert: Offenders who participated in a mental health court program recorded significantly better recidivism outcomes compared to matched control defendants in the traditional criminal court system, according to Joye Anestis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, and co-author Joyce Carbonell, Ph.D., director of women’s studies at Florida State University in Tallahasee.

The study published online in Psychiatric Services in Advance compared two groups of 198 criminal offenders with mental illnesses. Overall, the mental health group had a lower occurrence of rearrest, a longer time to reoffending, and had fewer rearrests. Severity of the rearrest offense did not differ between the two groups, however.

A within-subject analysis of mental health court offenders found that those charged with misdemeanors had a higher occurrence of rearrest than those charged with felonies, but the two groups did not differ on odds of arrest or time to rearrest. Also, violent and nonviolent offenders showed no difference in recidivism outcomes, said Anestis and Carbonell.

The results may suggest that keeping mentally ill offenders out of jail and in community treatment may have positive effects on recidivism, as may the increased attention and supervision they receive, said the authors.

“Future research would benefit from a focus on the mechanisms of change in [mental health courts] and on identifying characteristics of individuals who respond best to participation in [them],” they concluded.

For more in Psychiatric News about mental health diversion options, see: “Judges, Psychiatrists Confer on Handling Mental Illness inJustice System.”

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Bill Spotlight: SB 1054–Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction (MIOCR) Grants

This week NAMI California spotlights SB 1054, a bill authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

This bill would appropriate $50,000,000 from the General Fund in the 2014-15 fiscal year for the mentally ill offender crime reduction (MIOCR) grant program, and require that half of that amount be used for adult offenders and half for juvenile offenders. These funds are used to create diversion, re-entry, and training programs for persons living with mental illness who are justice involved. Potential uses of the grants include establishing mental health courts, creating pre-booking diversion programs, or creating collaborative reentry programs that provide treatment and training for persons living with mental illness who previously incarcerated.

Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to counties that expand or establish a continuum of swift, certain, and graduated responses to reduce crime and criminal justice costs related to mentally ill offenders.

NAMI California commends the author for leadership in seeking to revive funding for the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant (MIOCRG) program. This program is invaluable in ensuring that persons living with mental illness who offend as a result of behavior deriving from that illness are provided with needed treatment in the least restrictive setting and are provided with the tools and support to reintegrate into society.

Read the full bill HERE.

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