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CIT in Action #11

Special Edition: NAMI National Convention Coverage!

Welcome to the CIT in Action NAMI Convention Recap!

NAMI welcomed approximately 2,000 members and friends to the nation's capital from June 28 - July 2 for the 2006 NAMI Convention. NAMI supporters visited their representatives on Capital Hill, mingled with mental health and criminal justice experts and enjoyed four days packed with workshops, seminars, exhibits and receptions.  This newsletter gives you a recap of the criminal justice/mental health workshops and award activities at the 2006 NAMI Convention.

The Sam Cochran Compassion in Law Enforcement Award- Judge Steven Leifman

Major Sam Cochran presented the award named in his honor to Judge Leifman for his exceptional work in decriminalizing people with mental illness. This award is given in recognition of exemplary work in the criminal justice system to deal fairly with people with mental illness. Judge Leifman, of the 11th District Court in Miami, has worked for years to ensure that the criminal justice system is truly “just”. He has promoted innovative alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illnesses who have committed a crime, and has promoted CIT in Miami-Dade County. Moreover, Judge Leifman has promoted these ideas in influential national forums. His compassionate and enlightened treatment of some of our society’s most vulnerable citizens is a model for the criminal justice system throughout Florida and the Nation. We extend out sincere thanks and congratulations to Judge Leifman for his continued work in promoting the concept of mental illness as a disease- not a crime.

Symposium: Decriminalizing Mental Illness and Creating Workable Alternatives

In too many communities and states, jails and prisons are the default mental health system. Providing effective treatment and services is almost impossible in these environments- which are designed to be punitive, not therapeutic. This symposium featured prominent national leaders engaged in the effort to decriminalize mental illness and create appropriate treatment alternatives. First, award-winning journalist, Pete Earley, discussed the root causes of criminalization, including dysfunctional mental health systems that fail to respond to people during times of crises. Following Mr. Earley’s presentation, Judge Steve Leifman and Elizabeth Griffith, Associate Director of Policy, Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice discussed positive and practical solutions to ending the inappropriate incarceration of people with serious mental illnesses.. Panelists took questions from the audience on issues ranging from federal grants to personal struggles. Audience members had a unique opportunity to meet with leaders in the field to discuss strategies and initiatives aimed at ending the criminalization of mental illness. The Symposium was chaired by Risdon Slate, PhD, of the NAMI National Board of Directors.   

Workshop: Transforming Jurisprudence: Justice for all Requires Changing the Minds of Lawyers and Judges

Having observed injustice in the criminal justice system for people who live with mental illness, as well as being on the receiving end of this injustice, a lawyer with bipolar disorder discussed progress in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Alaska. With a mission to change the minds of lawyers and judges- and replacing myths and stigma with accurate facts- the goal of this panel was to educate the legal and judicial community about mental illness.  Panelists included: Angela Vickers, JD, NAMI member, Board of Directors, NAMI –Florida and Carol Kowall, attorney and senior partner, Kowall and Standish, Pittsburgh, PA. (Bonnie – it would be good to say where this firm is located). The session was moderated by Michael Mathes, JD, past president, NAMI- Florida.

Workshop: Taking Criminal Justice Training Programs into Prisons

NAMI Indiana has developed a program to train prison personnel about mental illness, allowing correctional staff to better understand and communicate with inmates with mental illness- and thus enhancing safety for both inmates and prison personnel. Use of force among those who have been through the training has decreased by 70 percent- resulting in improved working conditions for prison workers and more humane living conditions for inmates. Panelists included: Kellie Meyer, MA, Director, Criminal Justice Training Program, NAMI- Indiana. Joseph Vanable, PhD, professor emeritus, Purdue University Joan Lafuze, PhD, professor, Purdue University, Mike Kemp, , NAMI- Indiana. Alan Schmetzer, MD, Director of Residency Training, Indiana University Department of Psychiatry, and Ryan McCarty, Program Director, NAMI- Indiana. The session was moderated by Pamela McConey, MA, Executive Director, NAMI -Indiana.

Workshop: Improving the Police Response in Your Community

Although police interactions with consumers have greatly improved since the advent of Crisis Intervention Teams, most communities continue to struggle with effective police responses. This session explored a variety of avenues for improving interactions with police, including training, building coalitions, and advocating for CIT teams and other specialized police response teams. Panelists included: Michael Metzler, Detective, Alton Police Department, IL. Shelly Daunis, Coordinator, CIT Team, Illinois Law Enforcement Training & Standards Board.

Special Interest Networking Session: Crisis Intervention Training

CIT is a growing movement in the United States. Many communities have implemented CIT while many other jurisdictions are interested in starting these programs but have not yet marshaled the resources or support to make them a reality. Major Sam Cochran of the Memphis Police Department moderated this panel of family members, CIT coordinators and mental health professionals discussing how CIT can be successfully implemented and enhanced. Leaders from two jurisdictions; Baltimore and St. Louis, presented how their programs began; with a concentration on the history of CIT in their area, advocacy partnerships, resources utilized, barriers encountered and communications strategies. Major Cochran fielded questions from the audience for panelists which allowed attendees to learn about the success of CIT and how to bring needed information home in order to develop and enrich their specialized response programs. Panelists included Sergeant Barry Armsfield, CIT Coordinator, St. Louis, MO. Richard Stevenson, NAMI -St. Louis. Steve Barron, Director, Washington D.C. Department of Mental Health, and Kate Farinholt, Executive Director, NAMI-Baltimore.

Useful Links

The 2nd Annual Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) National Conference:

Learn more about this upcoming conference! Taking place in Orlando Florida in September, 2006- This national conference is designed to highlight effective community collaborations that are responding to the needs of those with mental illnesses including co-occurring substance use disorders.For location, registration, and panel submission information please visit the above website.

The Criminal Justice/Mental Health Information Network:
A powerful new database to help you improve your understanding of criminal justice/mental health collaborations. A useful tool for criminal justice/mental health professionals, policymakers, family members, consumers, and researchers. A platform for peer-peer networking.

The Ohio Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJ/CCoE): 
Established in May 2001 to promote jail diversion alternatives for people with mental illness throughout Ohio.

The Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project: 
A repository of information about all aspects of jail diversion, reentry, and enhanced treatment for offenders with mental illness.

U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance: 

Administers federal mental health courts program, provides resources and information for jail diversion, publications and reports, information about federal funding sources.

The National Gains Center: 

Focused  on expanding access to community based services for adult's diagnosed with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders at all points of contact with the justice system.

Police Executive Research Forum (PERF): 
Information about criminal justice and mental health, community policing and other relevant information).

The Reentry Policy Council 

Bipartisan recommendations for successful prisoner reentry practices. This comprehensive report is beneficial as it recommends reentry strategies that reduce the likelihood of recidivism.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 

Administers federal jail diversion grant program, resource information, publications, and other helpful information about criminal justice and mental health.

Connecticut Crisis Intervention Teams 

An excellent resource for Connecticut residents and nonresidents alike. The site offers training information, posts, and articles with information concerning the implementation and sustainability of CIT.

Your Feedback and Information is Needed!

We are also eager to hear from you about news or stories we can include for future issues of CIT in Action. Send your comments or ideas to Bonnie Sultan,