State Looks at How Courts Deal with Mentally Ill, Substance Abuse

KTVZ21

By KTVZ21

SALEM, Ore. – The state of Oregon began work Wednesday on a data-driven approach to address challenges in how the state responds to people in the criminal justice system who have mental illnesses and substance addictions.

Oregon’s Behavioral Health Justice Reinvestment Steering Committee met to officially launch the state’s participation in the federally funded Justice Reinvestment Initiative. The committee will focus on developing a statewide policy framework to support local governments in improving recidivism and health outcomes for people who repeatedly cycle through both the public safety and health systems.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, a national nonprofit organization, will assist Oregon in this effort with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“We know that when we make meaningful change in behavioral health treatment and addiction recovery, we lift a burden off of our prisons, our hospitals, and our law enforcement,” said Governor Kate Brown, who served as CSG’s national president in 2017. “Oregon successfully used justice reinvestment to slow prison growth and expand programs that help people succeed outside of prison. By focusing on the intersection of the behavioral health and criminal justice systems in this new model of reinvestment, we can continue to improve both health and public safety.”

During the meeting, CSG Justice Center staff presented analyses highlighting how a small number of people can account for a large percentage of annual jail admissions.