Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ending An American Tragedy: Addressing the Needs of Justice-Involved People with Mental Illnesses and Co-Occurring Disorders

The National Leadership Forum on Behavioral Health/Criminal Justice Services (NLF) was established in 2008 to address common barriers to successful diversion and reentry – the lack of accessible, quality and appropriate services that help individuals remain and succeed in the community. Forum members represent leading experts in the fields of criminal justice, consumer advocacy, and mental health. These individuals are consumers, directors and CEOs of national consumer organizations, judges and public defenders, mental health practitioners, state mental health agency representatives, state department of corrections directors, and other national leaders in the field. Meetings are used to review the condition of the criminal justice and mental health systems, draft methods for improving key areas of these two systems, organize materials and documents created by the NLF for dissemination, and review the impact these documents have on fostering change in criminal justice/mental health policy and practice at the federal, state, and community levels.

The goal of the NLF is to go beyond previous efforts to address diversion and reentry for persons with mental illness that become justice involved. To do this, the NLF is developing an annual report that will identify several methods on how to improve current practices in these two systems and will make clear that:

* The increase number of persons with mental illness in the justice system is a public health and a public safety crisis that demands urgent attention;
* We know how to successfully address the needs of people with mental and substance use disorders who come in contact with the criminal justice system;
* The information that is already available needs to be put into practice; and
* The time for action is now!

The first report, Ending An American Tragedy: Addressing the Needs of Justice-Involved People with Mental Illnesses and Co-Occurring Disorders, provides 4 recommendations for immediate action. These recommendations include:

* The President should appoint a Special Advisor for Mental Health/Criminal Justice Collaboration;
* Federal Medicaid policies that limit or discourage access to more effective and cost-efficient health care services for individuals with serious mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders should be reviewed and action taken to create more efficient programs;
* All States should create cross-system agencies, commissions, or positions charged with removing barriers and creating incentives for cross-agency activity at the State and local level; and
* Localities must develop and implement core services that comprise an Essential System of Care;

Each year the report will be updated to provide details on the state of the field and make further recommendations for action. The NLF will meet once a year to track the progress of the recommendations made from previous years and suggest areas for improvement. Click the following link to download a copy of Ending An American Tragedy.


Anonymous said...

Dear Editor:

I would like to review the document you refer to but the link either comes up as 404 not found or sends you to a business site having apparently nothing to do with NLF or its report. Please check on this.

editor said...

Thanks for bringing that to my attention. The link should be fixed now.