With Bipartisan Support, the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program Continues to Help People with Mental Health Needs

December 20, 2021

Fifteen years after its inception, the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) continues to support initiatives across the country to reduce contact with the criminal justice system and increase access to treatment and supports for people with behavioral health needs. Now, as Congress considers its funding plans for fiscal year 2022, JMHCP maintains bipartisan support for the work that it supports. Earlier this year, U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Norma Torres (D-CA), and Don Bacon (R-NE); and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) gathered 58 signatures in the House and 26 in the Senate to support continued funding for the program.

Beginning with legislation that then President George W. Bush signed into law in 2004—the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA)—JMHCP was later created by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to improve access to effective treatment for people with mental health needs and to increase public safety. For years, JMHCP has done just that, helping to fund and facilitate collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health, and substance use treatment systems. In 2016, with the help of Sens. Al Franken (formerly D-MN) and Cornyn, as well as Reps. Doug Collins (formerly R-GA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA),  it was reauthorized as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.

As of December 2020, JMHCP has awarded more than $164.3 million in awards ranging from $100,000 to $750,000. In total, 568 grants have been awarded to 49 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and American Samoa. This money has been used to support innovations such as police-mental health collaborations, funds for mental health courts and other court-based initiatives, and collaborative approaches to reducing the prevalence of people with mental illnesses in jails. In 2019 alone, program awards supported responses to more than 595 requests from 347 unique agencies related to police responses to people with mental illnesses.

Grants are used for a broad range of initiatives, including:

  • Multidisciplinary teams addressing frequent users of crisis services;
  • Diversion and alternative prosecution and sentencing programs (including crisis intervention teams and treatment accountability services for communities);
  • Mental health courts or other court-based programs;
  • Development of specialized receiving centers to assess people in the custody of law enforcement personnel for suicide risk and mental health and substance use treatment needs;
  • Training for law enforcement officials on safely resolving encounters with people experiencing a mental health crisis;
  • Mental health treatment and transitional services for people incarcerated or entering reentry programs;
  • Campus security personnel training in procedures to identify and respond appropriately to incidents in which the unique needs of people with mental illnesses are involved;
  • Veterans services, including training programs to teach criminal justice, law enforcement, corrections, mental health, and substance use personnel how to identify and appropriately respond to incidents involving qualified veterans;
  • Enhancing access to community-based health care services and coverage;
  • Housing and employment assistance;
  • Mitigating threats of targeted violence; and
  • Strengthening juvenile justice systems to improve outcomes for youth.

Below are some of the innovative approaches and programs supported by these initiatives:

Community Services, Law Enforcement

  • In the context of a growing opioid epidemic and cuts to the state’s mental health treatment hospitals, the Cedar Rapids, IA, Police Department (CRPD) saw a 68 percent increase in mental health and substance use crisis calls from 2013 to 2018. In response, and with the support of JMHCP funding, CRPD partnered with a local crisis services provider to launch a co-responder program where a crisis counselor responds to mental health and substance use calls with law enforcement officers. In the first year, the program provided services to more than 200 people.

Initial Detention, Court Hearing

  • Hinds County, MS received JMHCP funding to establish universal screening for mental health and substance use disorders at the Hinds County Detention Center. Now, all people entering are screened with the Mental Health Screening Form III and the Texas Christian University Drug Screen V. From October 2018 to January 2019, Hinds County found that 43 percent of people had a positive mental health screen. Further, they stayed longer in the jail than their counterparts, and they had low rates of connection to community-based treatment upon reentry. These data helped the county begin planning new strategies to increase connections to care upon release.

Jails, Courts

  • The Kalamazoo, MI, Recovery Court received JMHCP funding in 2008. From October 2008 to February 2014, 275 people agreed to participate in the Recovery Court. People who successfully completed the program went from an average of 10 days in jail in the year prior to participation to 6 days in the year after participation; they also experienced fewer and shorter psychiatric hospitalizations and ER visits.

In May 2021, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Tom Emmer (R-MN), as well as speakers from three communities that have led innovative programming with their JMHCP funding, participated in a virtual Congressional Briefing on Justice & Mental Health Collaborations.

To learn more about JMHCP, visit JMHCP pages at The Council of State Governments Justice Center or BJA.

Photo credit: Halfpoint on Shutterstock

About the author

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Director of Governmental Affairs, Finance, Operations, and Administration
Jamal Nelson cultivates and maintains relationships with members of Congress and the administration and acts as a liaison to various coalitions and groups to effectively implement the legislative priorities of the CSG Justice Center. Before joining the CSG Justice Center
in 2009, Jamal served as deputy director of intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he worked on international trade issues. Jamal received his BS in political science from Southern Connecticut State University.
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