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Council on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO) Announces First Annual Best Practices Awards

SEASIDE — The Council on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO) announced the recipients of the first annual Best Practices awards today at its council meeting. Awards were given for “outstanding best practices” in the adult programs category to Behavioral Health Court, San Francisco Superior Court; Co-occurring Disorders Court, Orange County Superior Court; and Mental Health Treatment Court, Santa Clara County Superior Court. Recipients for juvenile programs included Client Assessment Recommendation Evaluation Project (C.A.R.E.), Los Angeles County Public Defender; and the Court for the Individualized Treatment of Adolescents, Santa Clara County Superior Court, Juvenile Delinquency Division.

“The Council has broken new ground this year by establishing and recognizing the Best Practices in serving mentally ill offenders,” said James Tilton, COMIO Chairperson and Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). “Persons with mental illness traditionally have been underserved and often end up in jail or prison due to few community alternatives and a lack of understanding of the needs of these individuals. These five projects show creative approaches to serving this population.”

>Five awards were given this year out of a pool of 12 applicants, with two awards presented in the juvenile program and three in the adult program categories. The recipients are recognized for successfully managing a program that reflects best practices in California, for treating mentally ill patients to decrease the likelihood of their involvement with law enforcement and to increase the likelihood of an effective transition back into the community. Each winner will receive a plaque at an awards ceremony held tonight in conjunction with the annual statewide conference of the Forensic Mental Health Association of California where several hundred people will be in attendance.

“It is critical that state agencies and local governments have a coordinated approach to providing programs that serve the needs of mentally ill offenders and improve public safety, said Secretary Tilton. “These awards highlight examples of the ‘best of the best’ approaches throughout California to effectively serve the needs of the mentally ill offender.”

A major function of the California Council on Mentally III Offenders (COMIO) is to encourage effective creative services in an ongoing effort to identify best practices.

COMIO intends to annually recognize providers who successfully treat mentally ill patients within the state and county criminal justice systems.

COMIO was created by the legislature in 2001 “to investigate and promote cost-effective approaches to meeting the long-term needs of adults and juveniles with mental disorders who are likely to become offenders or who have a history of offending.” Two strategies to achieve this were defined:

1) to improve service coordination among state and local mental health, criminal justice and juvenile justice programs, and

2) to improve the ability of adult and juvenile offenders with mental health need to transition successfully between corrections-based, juvenile-based and community-based treatment programs.

COMIO is comprised of a ten person panel of experts and practitioners selected to tackle the difficult challenges posed by mentally ill offenders. The board meets six times a year.

Council on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO)

Chairperson James E. Tilton, Secretary, CDCR
Vice-Chairperson: Stephen Mayberg, Ph.D., Director, CA Department of Mental Health

Members: Joel Fay, PsyD., Mental Health Liaison Officer, San Rafael Police Department; David Lehman, Chief Probation Officer (retired), Humboldt County, and former member of the Board of Corrections (now the Corrections Standard Authority); Wendy Lindley, Judge, Orange County Superior Court; Duane E. McWaine, M.D., Medical Director, Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Los Angeles; David Meyer, J.D., Professor, Institute of Psychiatry, Law and Behavioral Science, Keck School of Medicine, USC, and former Chief Deputy Director, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health; Jo Robinson, M.F.T., Program Director, San Francisco Jail Health and Psychiatric Services; James W. Sweeney, J.D., Principal, James W. Sweeney & Associates; Charles L. Walters, Ph.D., Assistant Sheriff, Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department.

COMIO Website:

Link toCouncil on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO) 2008 “Best Practices” Awards Recipients