A report released in June presents 46 recommendations for improving the criminal justice system's response to people with mental illness. The 421-page report is the result of a two-year national bipartisan effort—the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project—to define the common ground among all stakeholders in the criminal justice and mental health systems and find ways to change laws, policies, procedures, and systems to reduce the high rate of incarceration of people with mental illness.
The Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project brought together more than 100 representatives of the criminal justice and mental health systems. It was launched in August 2000 when the Council of State Governments partnered with six organizations: the Police Executive Research Forum, the Pretrial Services Resource Center, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the Center for Behavioral Health, Law, and Public Policy. The steering committee established four advisory boards—law enforcement, courts, corrections, and mental health—that work to reach a consensus on policy issues.
The report describes its target audience as individuals who are "agents of change": state policymakers who can have a broad systemic impact on the problem of incarceration of people with mental illness and an array of practitioners and advocates who can shape a community's response to the problem. The developers of the report felt that these change agents would be less hesitant to champion the report's policy statements because the recommendations are based on a consensus of experts with a diverse range of perspectives and opinions.
According to the report there are at least 23 discrete events on the criminal justice continuum—from the initial call to police to a person's release from jail or prison—in which law enforcement, court, and corrections officials could improve their response to people with mental illness. The 46 recommendations are in the form of policy statements that can serve as guides or prompt initiatives to improve the response. Following each policy statement is a series of more specific recommendations that highlight practical steps that should be taken to implement the policy.
Woven into the discussion of each recommendation are examples of programs, policies, or elements of state statutes that illustrate attempts by one or more jurisdictions to implement a particular policy statement. The developers of the report hope that state and local government officials and community leaders will use the statements to get beyond discussing the problem and to begin taking steps to address it. However, they also caution that many of the initiatives have yet to be evaluated.
The report is available on the project's Web site at www.consensusproject.org. The entire report can be read or downloaded; in addition, the site directs readers from 13 specific stakeholder groups, such as prosecutors, jail administrators, and consumers and families, to specific pages in the report that are relevant to their profession or constituency.
2003 NARSAD Young Investigator Awards: The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) has announced award opportunities of up to $30,000 a year for up to two years for postdoctoral fellows or assistant professors (or equivalent) either to extend research fellowship training or to begin careers as independent research faculty. Basic or clinical investigators are supported, but research must be relevant to schizophrenia, major affective disorders, or other serious mental illnesses. Applicants must have an on-site mentor who is an established investigator in a relevant area. Guidelines can be downloaded from the NARSAD Web site at www.narsad.org. The submission deadline is July 25, 2002. The earliest grant start date is July 1, 2003. For more information, contact Audra Moran, director of the research grants program, at 516-829-5576 (e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Nominees invited for APA's 2003 Administrative Psychiatry Award: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Association of Psychiatric Administrators (AAPA) jointly sponsor the Administrative Psychiatry Award, which is presented annually to a psychiatrist who has demonstrated extraordinary competence in psychiatric administration over a substantial period and has achieved a national reputation as an administrator. Any interested individual can make a nomination by writing a letter indicating why the candidate should be given consideration. A copy of the nominee's curriculum vitae must be enclosed. For additional information on award eligibility criteria, contact Kristen Moeller in the APA education department at kmoeller@ psych.org. The deadline for nominations is August 1, 2002.