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New Guide to Improve Court Responses to Mental Illness

Justice-system involvement for those with mental illness has broad-reaching implications.  For courts and communities to effectively respond to individuals with mental and behavioral health issues who are involved in the justice system requires committed stakeholders across a spectrum of services and time.

In collaboration with Arizona’s Fair Justice Subcommittee on Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System, this new NCSC guide details the process and lessons-learned during statewide adoption of the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) recommendations to implement the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM).  The Committee’s goal is promoting “a more efficient and effective justice system for those individuals who come to court and are in need of behavioral health services,” by using SIM as a “conceptual framework for communities to organize targeted strategies for justice-system involved individuals with behavioral health disorders.”  The idea behind the SIM is that appropriate responses at identified intercepts can keep an individual from continuing to penetrate the justice system. The most effective approach is to design responses that are engaged in by community collaborators early and often.

The guide was funded through an SJI grant to the Arizona Supreme Court.  In addition to statewide-specific appendices, much of the information, including SIM Protocols that detail five different partner-level activity intercepts, and general suggestions for convening, collaborating, and sustaining efforts, is applicable to all courts.