Recently, the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University co-sponsored the National Mental Health Court Summit. This 3-day conference held in Park City, Utah, is one of the nation’s largest gatherings of mental health court professionals, experts, and practitioners.
While crime rates across the U.S. have steadily decreased over the past 30 years, incarceration rates remain near all-time highs. Jurisdictions across the U.S. are seeking new and innovative approaches to criminal justice in the form of mental health courts.
Mental health courts offer communities an alternative way to link criminal offenders to treatment programs. Relying on personalized treatment plans, mental health evaluations, group therapy, jail diversion programs and increased community-based support, these programs across the U.S. are experiencing increased success and attention.
Attendees heard presentations from author and mental health advocate DJ Jaffe, the Executive Director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, John Snook, and Utah First District Court Judge Kevin Allen, among many others.
Judge Allen’s presentation highlighted his experiences administering the mental health court in Cache County. He explained that the vast majority of mental health court participants are currently or have been addicted to drugs. If there weren’t alternative treatment options like mental health and drug court, he said, many of those participants would have been sent to jail or prison.
He expressed that, overall, the most rewarding part of working with the mental health court participants is to see people make positive changes in their lives. Often, participants will write about their experiences and express gratitude for alternative treatment options like mental health court. With them, he said, communities give people options. Without them, communities suffer.
“Addressing mental health services is critical to the overall health and strength of our community,” Judge Allen said.
The conference was sponsored by the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University, the State of Utah Judiciary, and the Utah State University College of Humanities and Social Sciences Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology.