Federal funds support treatment of offenders with mental disorders

The U.S. Department of Justice announced its award of more than $3.7 million for grants intended to address the needs of adult and juvenile nonviolent offenders with mental disorders

by Government Relations Staff

October 24, 2006 — The federal government is providing monies and making new grant awards available under a program strongly supported by the APA Practice Organization.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced its award of more than $3.7 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 monies for 27 grants in 19 states. The grants are intended to address the needs of adult and juvenile non-violent offenders with mental disorders, and to foster ways for the mental health and criminal justice systems to work together to meet these needs. Further, DOJ just issued an announcement that solicits applications for approximately 20 new grants available for FY 2007.

The DOJ's Bureau of Justice Assistance within the Office of Justice Programs issued the awards and the new solicitation for additional grant applications as part of the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program. This program was authorized by the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004 (MIOTCRA), sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Rep. Ted Strickland (D-OH). The Act was created to facilitate collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health and substance abuse treatment systems to increase and improve access to treatment for mentally ill offenders.

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program that resulted from MIOTCRA's passage provides federal funding to create and expand initiatives such as mental health courts, jail diversions programs, treatment for incarcerated offenders, and cross-training for law enforcement and mental health personnel working with offenders who need mental health services. "The initiatives funded by this program provide new opportunities and resources for psychologists serving adults or juveniles with mental health disorders who have been involved with, or who are at risk of becoming involved with, the justice system," says Marilyn Richmond, J.D., assistant executive director for government relations for the APA Practice Organization.

Eligible applicants for the FY 2007 grant awards include states, local government entities, and Indian tribes and tribal organizations, which must apply in partnership with a mental health agency by December 12, 2006. Three categories of grants will be available: planning grants of up to $50,000 each; planning and implementation grants of up to $250,000 each; and implementation and expansion grants of up to $200,000 each.

Congress appropriated $5 million in FY 2006 to support the Mental Health and Justice Collaboration Program, a substantial increase over earlier funding for the original mental health courts program. Key congressional appropriators now are working to secure FY 2007 funding. The House of Representatives has reserved $5 million for the program in its Science, State, Justice, Commerce Appropriations bill, which passed the House over the summer, while the Senate Appropriations Committee also has reserved $5 million in its FY 2007 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.

The MIOTCRA has been one of the APA Practice Organization's key legislative priorities for several years now. The APAPO has partnered with the Campaign for Mental Health Reform, a coalition of 16 mental health organizations including APA, as well as the Council of State Governments to advocate for the legislation's passage and funding. Over the years, practitioners have provided critical grassroots support, with APA Practice Organization Federal Advocacy Coordinators mobilizing hundreds of psychologists in select districts to weigh in with key Senate and House committee members during important stages of the legislative and appropriations process.

The DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 1999 that approximately 16 percent of the prison or jail population has a mental disorder. In the case of juveniles, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice found that two-thirds of detained male youth and three-quarters of detained female youth have a mental disorder.