Mental Illness Awareness Week Brings Attention to the Need for Treatment Courts

Why Care? Mental Illness Awareness Week

The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) Mental Illness Awareness Week runs from October 6th through the 12th. This topic has not only started to get more attention in the last few months but remains a critical issue in need of effective solutions. For those incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system, assistance for mental illness is often overlooked and it’s even more true for individuals experiencing suicidal ideation.

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New Assessment Tool Aims to Help Treatment Courts Identify Racial Bias

Diverse people group

The upcoming presidential election, the 25th anniversary of the federal 1994 crime bill, and the enactment of the First Step Act, have rekindled the national debate on the urgent need for criminal justice reform at the federal level.

But much of the work to reform the criminal justice system is happening at the state and local level. State prisons house 1.3 million of the 2.3 million people confined nationwide (88% at the state level and 12% at the federal level); and that population is disproportionately people of color. However, state courts are finding that the mass incarceration model is expensive and does little to enhance public safety or reduce crime.

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The Right to Graduate Treatment Court: How Gender-Specific Treatment Plans Are Necessary to Address Graduation Disparities

woman with a pink hat and the text gender equalityOn August 26th Women’s Equality Day is celebrated. Initially chosen in commemoration of the passing of the 19th Amendment that enshrined a woman’s right to vote, Women’s Equality Day has become a yearly celebration of the history of woman’s suffrage as well as a “pledge to continue fighting for equality for women and girls.”[i] In respect of that, this month’s blog post covers some of the issues women face in their experiences within treatment courts.

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Global Recovery: Where International Justice Meets the Drug Court Model

Map of the world

The first drug court was established in 1989 in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and was designed to tackle the cocaine epidemic that had overtaken the region. This first drug court provided an alternative response to mass incarceration and added a facet to American justice that hadn’t yet been seen. Miami-Dade’s model imparted the idea that offending rates could be reduced without the severe punishment of jail or prison. In addition, it emphasized the notion that treating the root causes of crime, including mental health and addiction issues, could not only achieve the same results as traditional justice, but could actually surpass them.

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Let’s Get Your History

Preeti Menon and colleague, Zephi Francis outside of court house.On recent visits to three drug courts in three different states, the concept of moving away from a traditional cookie-cutter approach to treatment for participants came up. In several conversations, drug court teams discussed the idea of working with participants to identify and better understand their unique needs. From that inquiry and conversation, drug court teams could develop a treatment plan tailored to the participant’s unique individual history, circumstances, and needs.

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Offering Support and a Chance at Recovery

An image of a courtroom.I first learned about the issues that can arise with the over-consumption of alcohol in a freshmen seminar in college. Before that, I had no formal introduction or training on the negative consequences that can result from drinking and driving. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Impaired (DWI) are increasingly becoming a national issue. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 48 minutes in 2017.”1 People who are proven guilty of DUI/DWI can then end up in treatment courts.

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A Social Work Professor Serves the Court

What’s celebrated in March? In addition to St. Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month, and National Criminal Justice Month, we also celebrate Social Work Month. In honor of the many contributions social work has made to treatment Photograph of Dr Annecourts, I decided to highlight a person whose work is beneficial to the practices and procedures of treatment courts. Dr. Anne Dannerbeck Janku is an associate research professor at the University of Missouri. For almost two decades, she has conducted research on racial and ethnic disparities in treatment courts. Continue reading “A Social Work Professor Serves the Court”

The Sword and the Pen — A Story of a Veterans Creative Writing Group

In the spring of 2017, I was working as a Veterans Treatment Court Coordinator in Montana. I’d heard about groups that used creative writing as a form of therapy for veterans but hadn’t heard of any in Great Falls. So, I worked woman writing on mountain summit with the local Vet Center to start a group called The Sword and the Pen. Initially, we met every other Thursday and by October of 2017, prior to my moving to DC to pursue a graduate degree, we were meeting every week, rain or shine.

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Veteran Mentors in Veterans Treatment Court: Engage, Encourage, Empower

Over the past decade, veterans treatment courts have transformed the way the justice system identifies, assesses, and responds to veterans. One of the keys to veterans treatment court’s success has been the inclusion of veterans from the community who serve as mentors to their fellow veterans in crisis.

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Addressing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in Treatment Courts

It’s no secret that substance use disorders are linked to mental health issues. According to SAMHSA, over 7.9 million Americans experience co-morbidity (two or more conditions at a time) with a mental and substance use disorder.[i] Drug courts are designed to bridge the gap between substance use treatment and the criminal justice system, but mental health treatment is often an overlooked link. For participants in drug courts nationwide, between one-quarter and one-half are referred to a mental health treatment provider for a co-occurring mental disorder.[ii] Unless drug courts begin to properly Mental Health spelled out in tilesaddress the mental health of the participants, they will not be resolving all underlying problems that led to criminal justice involvement for people with co-occurring disorders. Continue reading “Addressing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in Treatment Courts”