Institute's Goal is to Improve Understanding of Mental Illness and Available Treatment Options
Each year more than 170,000 people experiencing serious mental illnesses (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression) are arrested and booked in to Florida jails. The cost is $1 million per day - $365 million per year. The number of Floridians with mental illnesses who are in prison has increased 36% in the past five years. Without treatment, many individuals cycle through the system for the majority of their adult lives.
Florida has been at the forefront in programs that provide access to court-monitored treatment and services in lieu of continued jail time. The nation’s first drug court was created in Dade County in 1989, followed by the first mental health court in Broward County in 1997.
Unfortunately, continuing education programs have not kept pace with the advancement of these specialized courts. Additionally, we know that issues surrounding mental disorders can impact other areas of the court system such as Family Court and Probate Court.
As part of our mission, Partners in Crisis is developing continuing education courses on mental illness, addictions and developmental disabilities for judges, state attorneys, public defenders and the private bar.
The Partners in Crisis Board of Directors believes that through education and greater understanding of these diseases and disabilities justice officials will be more aware of community treatment options or diversion programs that may be appropriate for offenders who come before them in the courtroom. Following is an overview of the planned judicial education program:
Florida Partners in Crisis is working in partnership with the agencies and organizations named below to create educational materials on mental disorders and intellectual disabilities for use by judges, state attorneys, public defenders, legal services organizations, court personnel and private bar members. It is our intention that this program serve as an ongoing resource for court officials with up-to-date information, expanded course curriculums and online capabilities. There are currently no similar resource materials or courses offered to justice officials or the private bar.
In 2009, Partners in Crisis established a Justice Institute to develop courses and written materials for criminal justice officials. In addition to offering in-person educational programs, the Justice Institute has developed a bench book guide for judges, community resource guide and a video library of its programs.
The bench book provides the latest clinical information on the characteristics of mental disorders and intellectual disabilities including mental illnesses, substance use disorders, co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders, types of intellectual disabilities, autism and more. Citings for relevant Florida laws, statutes, rules and policies to provide immediate assistance to judges during court processes will also be included.
The resource guidebook is recommended for use by court personnel, attorneys and others to guide them to community resources, diversion programs, entitlement benefits and other resources that may be available for defendants with mental disorders or intellectual disabilities.
Continuing education sessions have been approved by the Office of the State Courts Administrator, the Florida Bar and Florida Certification Board. Partners in Crisis works collaboratively with the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, Florida Council for Community Mental Health, Florida Sheriffs Association, NAMI Florida, Florida Psychiatric Society and other organizations to provide faculty for a variety of statewide and regional conferences.
Contributing Agencies and Organizations
- Disability Rights Florida
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Florid
- Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida
- Office of State Courts Administrator
- Florida Psychiatric Society
- Florida Institutional Legal Services
- The Florida Bar Foundation
- Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation
- Holland & Knight LLP
- Lilly, USA LLC
- Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A.