Date: 03/09/2009

Metro Area County Commissioners Task Force


Votes: View--> Action Taken:

01:34 PM -- Metro Area County Commissioners Task Force Presentation

Andy Karsian, Colorado Counties, Inc., introduced the Metro Area County Commissioners Mentally Ill Inmates Task Force, which was formed in 2007 to identify and address mental health issues in county jails. He distributed an information packet to the committee members (Attachment A). The three major goals of the task force include 1) quantifying fiscal costs to counties for serving increased population of mentally ill inmates in metro area jails; 2) completing a regional assessment of how mentally ill people move through the various criminal justice system in metro counties; and 3) developing recommendations based on the regional assessment.

Mr. Karsian discussed the mapping of various county correctional systems that was undertaken by a contractor called Policy Research Associates in order to identify strengths and gaps in each system. The three primary objectives of the exercise were:
  1. The development of a comprehensive picture of how people with mental illness and co-occurring disorders flow through the county criminal justice systems along five distinct intercept points: law enforcement and emergency services, initial detention and court hearings, jails and courts, community re-entry, and community corrections/community support.
  2. The identification of gaps in services, as well as resources and opportunities for collaboration at each intercept point for individuals in the target population.
  3. The development of priority areas for activities designed to improve system and service level responses for individuals in the target population.

A number of programs and resources were identified during the mapping exercise that provide opportunities for collaboration and serve as a basis for service expansion. Mr. Karsian discussed the matrix contained in the report that provides a listing of strengths by county and across intercepts.

01:43 PM

Paul Siska, Adams County undersheriff and co-chair of the task force, explained that the task force has co-chairs because he understands the law enforcement side, and Rick Doucet has wide experience with the community mental health centers. The task force began its work by defining the problem. Undersheriff Siska discussed the difference in costs for housing regular inmates and those with an Axis 1 diagnosis. Axis 1 refers to the most serious category of mental disorder diagnoses from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some of the problems for Axis 1 inmates is a lack of identification to be used to access services upon release from jail. For 2009, the task force is working on funding issues for addressing the various problems.

01:51 PM

Rick Doucet, Community Reach Center and co-chair of the task force, discussed the gaps analysis that identified the needs in each county with regard to mentally ill inmates. Most counties are involved in a jail diversion program.

01:53 PM

Bill Lovinger, Denver County Director of Corrections and Undersheriff, expressed his admiration for the gaps analysis that helps counties address problems at a local level and at a regional level. Undersheriff Lovinger talked about the services for the mentally ill that are offered in the Denver County jail. The 2009 agenda for the task force is quite aggressive and designed to flesh out the scope of the problem in the jails and in the community at large. The Metro Area Triage Group provides three different centers for police to take individuals with mental health issues instead of taking them to hospitals, which often do not have the resources to address the needs of these individuals.

01:57 PM

Undersheriff Siska responded to questions about how inmates are diagnosed as being Axis 1 and the treatment available in the jails for these individuals. Every inmate is screened upon intake. He talked about continuity of care after inmates leave the jail. Undersheriff Lovinger responded to questions about the gaps analysis done in Denver County. The committee discussed the correlation between mentally ill inmates, homelessness, and veterans benefit eligibility. Undersheriff Lovinger stated that recidivism rates for the Denver jail are incredibly high and his case managers believe lack of adequate housing for released inmates is a key factor in high recidivism.

02:03 PM

Undersheriff Siska talked about the Community Engagement Supervision and Evaluation (CESE) Program, which attempts to break the cycle of recidivism for mentally ill inmates. The program provides intensive treatment and supervision of adults who have committed crimes, who also have mental illnesses. The CESE Program allows consumers assigned to the program to meet with their probation officer, therapist, attend groups, attend psychiatric appointments, and receive medications all in one location. The goals of the program are to provide appropriate treatment to consumers with mental illnesses who are also on probation, to decrease the number of consumers with mental illnesses who are in jail, and to reduce the criminal activity of consumers with mental illnesses by providing them with appropriate treatment. The committee discussed pretrial diversion opportunities for mentally ill individuals, including the potential of establishing mental health courts.

02:12 PM

The committee and the witnesses discussed the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and whether that creates jails that are acting as mental health centers.