Reducing Justice Involvement For People with Mental Illness.

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The Pennsylvania Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence is a collaborative effort of Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh. It is funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The purpose of the Center is to work with Pennsylvania communities to identify points of interception at which an intervention can be made to prevent individuals with mental illness from entering or penetrating deeper into the criminal justice system.

The Center will work collaboratively with the Commonwealth and locales in planning and implementing programs, providing information to promote their use of evidence-based practices and serve as a resource for technical assistance and training. The Center will also host a central repository for collected data and information on criminal justice/mental health responses throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Click here to view the official announcement of the PA Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence.

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Upcoming Webinars & Training

2016 CJAB Conference – registration is now open

Peer Specialist Training Series

  • The National Technical Assistance Center will offer a series of 3 webinars which will explore topics related to Peer Specialists. Read more about the series here.

Call for Presentations: 2016 NIC 3rd Annual Virtual Conference: “Leading with Innovation”

  • The NIC is looking for the nation’s best practitioners to share their work and submit presentations for this Virtual conference that will take place in November, 2016. See more information here.

Mental Health and Criminal Justice in the News

National Reentry Week 2016

  • Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason announces an effort to draw greater attention to reentry. The Department of Justice is designating April 24-30, 2016, National Reentry Week. Throughout the week, U.S. Attorneys' Offices will lead reentry-related efforts in their districts and Bureau of Prisons facilities will coordinate events in their 122 facilities. Comments or questions about National Reentry Week can be sent to

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Breaking the Cycle: Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System

  • In February 2016, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee discussed the staggering number of people incarcerated across the U.S. with mental illnesses and the need to divert those people to treatment instead of jail. Watch the full hearing.

Data Shows Police Lack Crisis Intervention Team Training to Deal with Mentally Ill (3/6/16, Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

  • Pittsburgh police have put 343 officers through CIT training but there is no guarantee that they will be dispatched on every mental-health call or that trained officers will have time, or take the time, to use CIT skills when confronted with a suspect who seems ill.

How America’s Criminal Justice System Became the Country’s Mental Health System (3/14/16, CSG)

  • Vox reporter, German Lopez, offers an engaging summary.

Criminal Justice Reform Focus of Pennsylvania Initiative (3/15/16, CSG Justice Center)

  • A new bipartisan Justice Reinvestment Working Group composed of members from all three branches of Pennsylvania’s government met for the first time on March 9 at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg for a presentation by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center on pressing criminal justice issues in the state.

Who Returns to Prison and Why? (3/15/16, The Crime Report)

  • • The US Sentencing Commission released a indicating that almost half of federal offenders tracked were back in trouble with the law within eight years of their release—most of them for nonviolent offenses—but their rates of recidivism and reconviction were significantly lower than for state offender. A copy of the full report is available on our website here.

New drug monitoring program should start in August (3/10/16, PLS Reporter)

  • A new state-run prescription drug monitoring program created to help curb the opioid abuse epidemic should be operating by August, Health Secretary Karen Murphy, Ph.D., told lawmakers Tuesday. According to the Citizens Voice, the monitoring program, authorized under a 2014 state law signed by former Gov. Corbett, is intended to stop people addicted to opioid painkillers from shopping among doctors to get prescriptions filled and provide them with treatment instead. The startup date is running about a year behind schedule.

Key Issues in Screening and Assessment of Co-occurring Disorders in the Justice System (3/9/16, SAMHSA)

  • SAMHSA recently released a new publication, "Screening and Assessment of Co-Occurring Disorders in the Justice System," that examines a wide range of evidence-based practices for screening and assessment of adults in the justice system who have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. The publication is available on our website here.

    The GAINS Center will be offering a webinar featuring Roger H. Peters, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, that will review many of the issues addressed in the publication. Look for an announcement regarding the webinar date and registration in the coming weeks.

Reforming the Justice System’s “Front End” (3/8/16, The Crime Report)

  • Criminal justice reformers have been focusing on the criminal justice system's "back end": how to get more inmates out of the bloated U.S. prison complex. Led by prosecutors, speakers at an alternative sentencing "summit" meeting yesterday in Washington, D.C. urged more attention on the system's front end, writes TCR Washington Bureau Chief Ted Gest. They advocated wider adoption of programs already underway in several places to divert defendants out of the system to treatment and other forms of probation so that they can avoid criminal records altogether.

Stepping Up Initiative National Summit–Meeting on reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail

  • County leaders and local policymakers representing 50 jurisdictions in 37 states are set to converge on Washington, DC, April17-19 to address the overrepresentation of people with mental illnesses in jails across the country. These teams were chosen to help policymakers and other local stakeholders create and/or refine plans to reduce the prevalence of people with mental illnesses in their jails.

    Click here to view the list of 50 jurisdictions.

SAMHSA Expands Wellness Initiative with the Program to Achieve Wellness

  • SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) recently announced its newest wellness effort, the Program to Achieve Wellness. Operated by Policy Research Associates, Inc. in Delmar, NY, the Program to Achieve Wellness (PAW) facilitates and promotes the implementation of wellness best- and promising-practices for people with mental and/or substance use disorders. The PAW can provide assistance to states, tribes, community-based organizations, and national groups through the dissemination of evidence-based and practice-tested policies, programs, and tools to help the design and implementation of wellness initiatives, including efforts that impact the lives of justice-involved individuals and forensic populations. To request assistance or obtain the PAW newsletter, email

Attorney General Announces New Award for Distinguished Service Community Policing (3/3/15, U.S. Department of Justice News)

  • Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced a new Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing. The winning officer(s) or deputy and/or deputies will have demonstrated active engagement with the community in one of three areas: criminal investigations, field operations or innovations in community policing. The application for nominees will be posted next week at

Learn from your Peers: Centre Counties’ “Building Hope Mentoring” program

  • Building Hope is a mentoring program created to assist returning citizens in becoming constructive, contributing members in the community. Through Building Hope a community member will be matched with an inmate to begin meeting weekly at the Centre County Correctional Facility while the participant is incarcerated.

Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records: Proposed Revisions Open for Public Comment

  • HHS has published proposed revisions to the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulations—42 CFR Part 2. They are looking for your input regarding the regulations (due by April 11, 2016). Read the information here.

Click here to find information by county including descriptive data (e.g. crime & mental health stats) and contact information for county agencies.

Click here to find program information by intercept.

Looking to have questions answered or to discuss issues with your peers in other counties? Our blog will give you the opportunity to initiate conversations with the Center of Excellence staff and your peers.

Click here to view our blog or start a conversation!

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