The Council on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO) has designated two projects to receive the 2009 Best Practices Award. These projects, one juvenile and one adult, are recognized for their effectiveness in measuring the successful treatment of mentally ill patients/clients to decrease the likelihood of future involvement with law enforcement and corrections and increase the individuals’ likelihood of effectively transitioning back into the community. In addition to the Best Practices Awards, this year the Council has created a new subdivision of recognition to be known as Promising Projects. A Best Practice Project typically has a combination of program maturity and a statistical analysis and evaluation approach used to document the project’s success. A project is considered “promising” when it demonstrates unique qualities or innovative direction, but may not have the program maturity or analysis seen in Best Practices Projects.
2009 Best Practices
for Juvenile Probation and Youth (IMAT)-- Sacramento County Collaboration
The River Oak Center for Children began implementing Multisystemic Therapy (MST) in 2004 in collaboration with the Sacramento County Probation Department. This was expanded in 2007 to include Sacramento County Mental Health, Quality Group Homes and Panacea Incorporated. The objectives of the program, which focuses on youth ages 10-17 for 3-5 months, are to reduce anti-social behavior, improve family problem- solving and enhance positive school and vocational involvement. Nearly 200 clients have been served and 400+ additional children and family members have benefited from the MST approach. From 2004 to 2008, 73% graduated, 72% of the youths were living at home at time of discharge, 84% were in school or working, 82% have no new arrests, and 81% of parents have demonstrated the skills necessary to handle future problems. The approach of an effective use of outcome measures offers a strong case for measuring an individual’s successful completion of the program.
Supervised Treatment After Release (STAR) -- San Bernardino County
STAR has been in operation for ten years and was created to affect a shift in institutional response from the criminal justice system to the mental health system and to maintain seriously mentally ill individuals in the least restrictive environment possible consistent with personal and community safety. More than 600 individuals have been served, usually within a 12 to 24 months period. An analysis of the behavior of 149 participants over a seven-year period indicates the number of bookings had decreased by 64%, the number of “jail bed days” decreased by 65% and the number of institutional placement days was reduced by 66%. STAR has effectively reduced recidivism for incarceration, shifted the demand for services to the mental health system and provided significant benefits for consumers in terms of deinstitutionalization.
Since 2001, the Juvenile Mental Health Court (JMHC) has accepted 315 children. It acts as a referral court for all minors found to be incompetent in Los Angeles County and is the only delinquency court in California that specifically accepts children who have been found incompetent by the referring courts. Typically, the JMHC probation period lasts two years and with successful completion of probation, the minor’s case may be dismissed. A diverse collaborative team looks at each child and devises a treatment plan that addresses each child’s disabilities as well as strengths.
Mental Health Court -- Placer County
Since 1999, the Placer County Mental Health Court has served about 600 defendants and presently does not receive any funding from collaborative agencies. The Mental Health Court’s success uniquely depends upon commitment from all participants representing diverse, and sometimes even oppositional agencies. Partner commitment encompasses dedication to improve outcomes of mentally ill offenders including reduced recidivism. While data collection methods are under development, evaluation analysis has not been used to determine success, to date. Still, the project’s participants sense that jail population and recidivism are diminishing, and that more defendants are receiving needed mental health treatment, resulting in an improved quality of life.
The Riverside County Mental Health Court was originally established in 2001 and reestablished in 2006. Misdemeanors offenders, as well as felons are considered for acceptance. Referral can originate from a variety of sources building upon a collaborative that is composed of formerly conflicted agencies. The program objective is to provide individuals with a linkage to mental health treatment outside of detention, identify community resources to facilitate continuity of care, increase treatment compliance and promote public safety. The two court locations serve 115 and 70 individuals annually. While the program has not implemented the model of rigorous data design and evaluation referenced in their application, the project does use measures to determine program success including completion of treatment goals, stabilization of mental illness and compliance with the terms of probation.
The Whatever It Takes (WIT) Court is a post-adjudication alternative serving chronically mentally ill individuals who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, and have pending criminal charges. Initiated in 2006, participants are provided intensive mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, case management and an intense level of judicial and probation supervision and monitoring. Similar to other problem-solving courts such as drug courts, this is a collaborative partnership made up of a multi- disciplinary team. Unique to the WIT Court is that each participant is assigned a Personal Service Coordinator, at a ratio of 1 to every 10 clients, who provides supportive treatment and assists clients with every facet of their recovery. Ninety-eight individuals have been admitted to the program with sixteen being terminated. Of the five graduates, the average length of time from program entry to graduation is 630 days. While this program is immature with a small number of participants, data is being collected and an internal evaluation of the program is planned.Announcement Letter. Note: The fiile is 2009_BestPracLtr.pdf. This document no longer exists on the internet server.