Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Transformation - Update and Review of Three Key Initiatives: Cross Systems Mapping, Crisis Intervention Teams and Jail Diversion

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Transformation - Update and Review of Three Key Initiatives: Cross Systems Mapping, Crisis Intervention Teams and Jail Diversion

Article excerpt

Over the past several years the Commonwealth of Virginia has, through multiple initiatives, made great strides in identifying and addressing the challenges encountered when individuals with behavioral health issues become entangled with the criminal justice system. Beginning with its Systems Transformation initiative in 2001, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) focused significant attention on criminal justice issues within the behavioral health system through the work of its Forensic Special Populations Workgroup. The Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) developed a white paper on Mental Health Issues in Jails and Detention Centers as part of its 'Blueprints for Change' series (http://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/ blueprints/mentalhealthissues.pdf). In October, 2006, when the late Chief Justice Leroy Hassell established the Commonwealth of Virginia Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, he specified the inclusion a Criminal Justice Workgroup with broad criminal justice and behavioral health stakeholder participation (http://www.courts.state.va.us/ programs/cmh/taskforce_workinggroup/tf_criminal.pdf) to develop recommendations for improving the criminal justice and behavioral health interface. In response to initial recommendations in the Commission's Preliminary Report (http://www.courts.state.va. us/programs/cmh/2007_0221_preliminary_report.pdf), in 2008, the Commonwealth Consortium for Mental Health and Criminal Justice Transformation (Commonwealth Consortium) was created to bring together state agencies, as well as statewide advocacy and constituency organizations representing affected stakeholders to develop and support policy and training to improve systems interoperability and identify training needs and options. In 2010, Governor McDonnell created the Virginia Prisoner and Juvenile Reentry Council, which includes a mental health and substance abuse issues workgroup to focus on the behavioral health needs of those reentering society after incarceration (http://www.governor.virgini.gov/issues/ ExecutiveOrders/2010/EO-11.cfm ). Concurrently, sometimes informing these processes and sometimes resulting from them, localities and regions throughout Virginia have also been developing local and regional programs and systems responses intended to improve behavioral health and criminal justice collaboration, systems' response and individual outcomes for justice involved individuals and those at risk for becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

There has been a wealth of history, study and action taken as a result not just of the foregoing, but many other initiatives, as well. A full treatise could be devoted to a comprehensive review and analysis of Virginia's criminal justice and behavioral health transformation process. However, the following brief summary highlights three of the significant programmatic activities underway in the Commonwealth and provides information concerning preliminary successes and outcomes. Each of these three benefits from strong partnership among the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the Department of Criminal Justice Services, local courts and criminal justice agencies, behavioral health services providers, consumers and family members. Each additionally boasts a significant and informative developmental history, which would be edifying, but is beyond the scope of this short article. What they have in common is that each has been undertaken as a direct result of or been supported by the Commonwealth Consortium for Mental Health and Criminal Justice Transformation, each is making a difference in communities across the Commonwealth, and each benefits from the Commonwealth's adoption of the Sequential Intercept Model as the framework for creating a common means to identify, understand and respond to the challenges presented at the criminal justice and behavioral health interface (see, Use of the Sequential Intercept Model as An Approach to Decriminalization of People with Mental Illness Griffin and Munetz and Griffin (2006), at http://psychservices. …

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