Mental Health and Criminal Justice Collaboration Grant – Update

As we reported in our last update, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is seeking applications for funding for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program. The purpose of this grant is to help communities create and continue cross-system collaborations for people with mental health issues that may become justice involved. To promote the grant, a series of webinars were presented to help grant seekers understand the process.

Units of local government are eligible to apply for this grant. To be considered for the grant the application must demonstrate that the proposed project involves collaboration between criminal justice and mental health agencies. The deadline for submission for this grant is April 4, 2017. The application can be accessed online.

You can also view a recorded webinar on the grant project and application process.

National Alliance on Mental Illness NC 2017 CIT Conference

Last week, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) held its annual CIT Conference. The conference was designed for law enforcement officers, jail administrators, court personnel, emergency responders, social workers, counselors, and mental health advocates. During the conference attendees heard from criminal justice professionals about how to effectively and humanely deal with the growing number of criminal justice involved people with mental health issues.

A highlight of the conference was a lecture by Risdon Slate, Ph.D., Criminology Professor. He bravely shared how his personal battle with mental illness caused him to be involved with the criminal justice system. As a criminal justice professional who has personally experienced being mentally ill and justice involved, his perspective was powerful and enlightening.

During an award luncheon at the conference, the following people were recognized for their outstanding work with CIT:

CIT Officer of the Year CIT Champion of the Year
Officer Darrell Meadows Suzanne Porter
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Dept.

CIT Volunteer of the Year Outstanding CIT Trainer of the Year
Keith Gibson Senior Sergeant Hardin Brown, Jr.
Cumberland County Sheriff Dept.

Outstanding Law Enforcement Executive of the Year
Sergeant Christopher Smith
New Hanover County Sheriff Department

Outstanding CIT Partnership
Lincoln County CIT Steering Committee

We encourage you to reach out to the municipalities the honorees represent to learn more about how CIT is making a difference in their communities and how you may be able to advocate for CIT training in your community.

Re-entry Grants Awarded

In mid-January, the Department of Public Safety awarded Re-entry contracts to  four additional “Intermediate Agencies” areas of the state.   Five areas are currently funded.

The new areas and agencies are:

  • Leading into New Communities –  New Hanover
  • Durham County – Durham
  • Family Resource Center South Atlantic – Wake
  • Freedom Life Ministries –  McDowell

Agencies received $150,000 each to coordinate local re-entry councils and job development for the re-entry population.

We are delighted to see funding for Re-entry Council work move forward.  All funding is expected to be short term and agencies are expected to identify local funding.  We would like to see some state funds be allocated to this purpose  to insure the continuation of the Councils.

New Contracts Awarded for CBI and Substance Abuse Services

The Department of Public Safety recently awarded over $3 million in contracts to agencies providing evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Intervention and substance abuse services to individuals on probation or post-release supervision.

These contracts were awarded in a re-bid process because some providers withdrew from contracts leaving areas without services.  Many others have found it difficult to operate under the extremely low monthly reimbursements paid out under the current contracts.  There were also a few areas in which agencies had not bid for services.

While program completion is an important measure,  it would be better to reward improvements in completion, rather than completion alone.  Since the high risk/high need  population currently has a recidivism rate (measured by re-arrest) ranging from 35%-60%, even the most successful programs or probation officers are unlikely to realize a 100% completion rate.

Contracts were awarded to:

  • Coastal Horizons – $469,436 – Duplin, Pitt, Sampson and Wayne.
  • Freedom House Recovery Center – $228,521 – Caswell, Chatham, Orange, Person, and Warren
  • Insight Human Services – $2,044,566 – Cabarrus, Gaston, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Randolph
  • Loving Light Community Outreach – $55,339 – Chowan and Gates
  • Piedmont Triad Regional Council – $201,181, Rowan
  • PORT Human Services – $191,014 – Pitt
  • Walk Through the Valley – $412,722 – Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson

Durham Awarded BJS Grant to Address Mental Health Needs in Jail

The Durham Sheriff’s Department has been awarded a Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grant of $228,000 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJS).

The purpose of the grant is to implement a system wide enhancement of identifying, screening and tracking prisoners in the jail in order to improve the jail’s ability to provide interventions.  Funds will also provide training to the jail staff in dealing with persons with mental illness.

The jail is partnering with the Criminal Justice Resource Center which operates the pre-trial service program and STARR, a substance abuse treatment program inside the jail.  Alliance Behavioral Health care, the LME/MCO for the Durham area is also a partner.

The jail is also preparing to implement a Mental Health pod/unit  to address mental health needs more appropriately.  Ongoing training and staff support will be critical to the successful operation of this pod.

Durham County is actively participating in Stepping Up,  a nationwide initiative supported by the national Association of County Commissioners.  Stepping Up is designed to reduce the number of persons with mental illness in local jails. This process has helped partners identify key areas for improvement.  We commend the Sheriff’s Department for working in collaboration with other community agencies to address mental health issues in the jail.

NC Criminal Case Management System – Time for a Change

Chief Justice Martin’s Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice is examining the criminal case management system in North Carolina.   A consultant speaking  to the committee found much room for positive reform in our system.

Key Findings Included:

1.  Cases are not being resolved timely in NC courts and are not meeting current NC guidelines.

2.  The lack of timeliness has an impact on justice including:

  • Victims wait too long
  • Witnesses may become unavailable
  • Public Defenders wait an average of 4.5 hours as do families of defendants.
  • Some people are sitting in jail 3-5 weeks – at a cost to the counties – because no counsel has been assigned.

3.  A number of NC practices don’t conform with other states and some deserve attention.

  • District Attorneys control the case flow but it is better to have the Court take on this role.
  • Every case setting should be a meaningful event; right now there are 6 or more continuances in every case.

4.  Benefits will result if the state addresses these issues including:

  • Reduced cost of pre-trial detention
  • Reduced security risks
  • Reduced costs of state and local officials

Recommendations Include

  1. The  NC Supreme court should manage a statewide effort to improve caseflow management and establish rules of practice.   The Court could establish a board responsible for overall strategy. The board could review existing statutes, recommend rules to reduce delay and establish and monitor pilot projects.
  2. Pretrial issues could be resolved at the Administrative setting.
  3. A case should be a single incident
  4. NC should collect needed data for case management.