The Council of State Governments Justice Center Board commends U.S. House members for passage of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act H.R. 3992.
The bill introduced by Representative Bobby Scott and Rep. Lamar Smith, will make a significant commitment to addressing the needs of both the criminal justice system and individuals with mental illnesses who come into contact with it.
“The passage of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act [MIOTCRRIA] illustrates the extraordinary bipartisan consensus that exists among elected officials to increase the accessibility of integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment, and to promote collaborative efforts between criminal justice and mental health agencies,” said Dr. James S. Reinhard, Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, and a Justice Center board member.
This legislation, which has received strong support in both the House and the Senate, will reauthorize the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act [MIOTCRA]. Enacted in 2004, MIOTCRA created the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grant Program designed to help states and counties design and implement coordinated efforts between criminal justice and mental health systems. Through appropriated funds, the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the Department of Justice has awarded 53 communities in 35 states with additional resources to plan and implement collaborative efforts between criminal justice and mental health systems.
The new bill will raise the authorization level from $50 million per year to $75 million per year and will extend the authorization through 2013. The bill will also reauthorize the mental health courts grant program and require a study to be completed on the prevalence of mental illness in prisons and jails.
“Reauthorizing MIOTCRA will provide much-needed support to states and local governments across the country. Every state is now seeking to design, implement, and expand initiatives that will improve the response to people with mental illnesses in contact with the criminal justice system. Front-line professionals, like corrections and police officers, are telling us that this will increase public safety, reduce state spending, and save lives,” said Justice Center board member and Connecticut State Representative Michael Lawler, “We urge the Senate to take swift action in support of this bill.”
The Texas Chief Justice Task Force, led by the Honorable Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, has set forth a series of goals for 2008 that will build on successes in the past year and improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses involved with the criminal justice system.
In 2007, the task force helped to bring about legislation that facilitated information-sharing among criminal justice and mental health agencies. The task force designed a system to identify in the Department of Public Safety records individuals who are also listed in the state mental health service database [Department of State Health Services; DSHS]. Judge Keller and key task force members presented the system to the 80th Texas Legislature, and these recommendations and related funding were adopted in May 2007[SB 839 by Senator Duncan, a member of the task force]. The new information -sharing mechanism which permits authorized jail personnel to gather additional information on individuals flagged as having prior contract with the public mental health system, is expected to be operational by September 2008.
Judge Keller’s task force now plans to recommend changes to the state’s reporting and jail intake processes. These plans all look good on paper, but will be very difficult to implement.
In the late 1970s I developed a plan that included reporting which mental health clinic, within the state of Oregon, individuals with mental illnesses were being treated. In the late 1980s I was informed that the mental health clinics were just then beginning to utilize that system. Confidentiality was the by-word then as it is now.
Consensus Project Newsletter, January 2008
Kenneth Briggs, Personal Experience, State of Oregon Mental Health Division, 1979