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New Resource Available for Advocates Addressing the Growing Numbers of People with Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System

February 2, 2006  -- The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project is pleased to announce the release of a new resource for advocates addressing the increasing numbers of people with mental illness involved in the criminal justice system, The Advocacy Handbook: A Guide for Implementing Recommendations of the Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project.

The Advocacy Handbook, the result of a joint effort among the Consensus Project, NAMI, the National Mental Health Association, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, is available online at the Consensus Project web site:

In recent years, there has been a growing chorus of advocates - whether individuals with mental illness, family members with loved ones who have mental illness, or simply concerned citizens - urging policymakers to "do something" about the increasing numbers of people with mental illness involved in the criminal justice system.

"This step-by-step guide helps advocates translate their energy into effective strategic plans. Equipped with recommendations that are constructive, bipartisan, practical, and reasonable, advocates can be effective partners to policymakers generally and leaders in the criminal justice and mental health systems specifically," said Representative Mike Lawlor (D – CT), cochair of the Consensus Project.

The Advocacy Handbook represents unparalleled consensus among distinct and independent national mental health organizations. It is designed to show advocates how to implement recommendations from the landmark Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project Report, released in 2002 by CSG on behalf of an extraordinary, bipartisan group of leaders in the criminal justice and mental health systems. Consensus Project staff are grateful to the leaders and contributors from each of these groups for their commitment to this issue and their determination to speak with one voice on these topics.

The Advocacy Handbook web site includes a variety of resources, including profiles of effective advocacy initiatives across the country. These profiles of "advocacy in action" highlight unique partnerships between advocates and state and local government agencies that have helped increase public safety, save lives, and reduce spending.