Council on Mentally Ill Offenders

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Building bridges between criminal justice and behavioral health to prevent incarceration.

Council on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO) 2008 "Best Practices" Awards Recipients


Behavioral Health Court, San Francisco Superior Court
Judge Mary Morgan; Lisa Lightman, Director of Collaborative Court Programs
An evaluation of the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court, one of the only pre-plea felony court programs in the nation, appeared in the September 2007 issue of American Journal of Psychiatry indicating that a mental health court can reduce the risk of recidivism and violence by people with mental disorders who are involved with the criminal justice system.  By 18 months after graduation, the estimated risk of being charged with any new offense was about 39% lower than the comparison group and  55% lower of being charged with a violent offense. Since 2003, the Behavioral Health Court has had 173 graduates. There are 160 persons currently in the program.

Co-Occurring Disorders Court, Orange County Superior Court

Judge Wendy Lindley; Paul Shapiro, Collaborative Courts Officer; Jim Mahar, Collaborative Court Coordinator
The Orange County Co-Occurring Disorders Court is a post-adjudication alternative for felony drug offenders who have been diagnosed as chronically, persistently mentally ill.  The court aims to reduce recidivism by providing coordinated treatment which includes a high level of judicial and probation supervision and monitoring.  Average length of program participation is 763 days.  Unique to this program is a highly structured and individualized four phased treatment and recovery plan design that must be followed by the participants in order to achieve graduation.   Since 2002, 123 individuals have entered the program and 40 have graduated.

Mental Health Treatment Court

Santa Clara County Superior Court 
Judge Stephen V. Manley; Actricia Barrieau, Coordinator for Drug and Mental Health Treatment Court
The Santa Clara County Mental Health Treatment Court was established in 1997 and is considered the first mental health court in California. A major goal at its initiation was to change the orientation within the county from "jail and prison incarceration" to "community based treatment" with court supported intervention.  In 2006, the program saved 113,344 jail bed days—which reflects a county savings of $7,874,007 and a savings to the State in excess of $16,376,000.  Although formal tracking of the program participants was not initiated until 2001, since that time 1,075 have graduated while 262 have been terminated.  Presently there are 1,500 people in the program. 



Client Assessment Recommendation Evaluation Project (C.A.R.E.),
Los Angeles County Public Defender
Jennifer Mayer, Deputy Public Defender; Joanne Rotstein, Deputy Public Defender
The Client Assessment Recommendation Evaluation Project, more commonly known as CARE, operates in the ten juvenile branch offices of the Los Angeles Public Defender with the focus of assessing, identifying and making effective recommendations to the Juvenile Court to address children's mental health and special education needs at the earliest stages of the court process.  This approach involves a multi-disciplinary team of psychiatric social workers, mental health professionals, resource attorneys as well as other clinicians.  From 1999 through 2007, approximately 11,000 children received project services.  In the 2006-2007 fiscal year alone, 1,298 new clients received 7,220 types of services.  A recent study found that 76% of the youth whose cases were opened and closed between February 2004 and December 2005 had no new charges filed in juvenile or adult court during the subsequent year.  During the past 4 1/2 years, the courts have adopted 83% of the CARE disposition recommendations.  There are typically 400 youth in the program receiving services in a 90 day period. 

Court for the Individualized Treatment of Adolescents

Santa Clara County Superior Court, Juvenile Delinquency Division
Judge Richard Loftus; Sean Rooney, Supervising Probation Officer
The Court for the Individualized Treatment of Adolescents, popularly known as CITA, seeks approaches that are community-based, family centered, culturally appropriate and supportive to the individual.  It holds the juvenile accountable and in a collaborative manner attempts to treat the underlying causes for the juvenile’s behavior. The CITA also aims to reduce recidivism. Initiated on February 14, 2001, CITA is the first juvenile mental health court in the country and has developed an evolving set of graduation criteria that now have been replicated by other courts throughout the country. CITA has a set population cap of 75 minors at any one time.  171 have successfully completed the one year program out of a total of 255.