Joint Committee Studying
Treatment Options for Offenders with Mental Illness or Substance Abuse
May 3, 2001, Richmond
Senate Joint Resolution 440,
agreed to by the 2001 Session of the General Assembly, directed the Joint
Commission on Behavioral Health Care, in conjunction with the Virginia
State Crime Commission and the Virginia Commission on Youth, to study
treatment options for persons involved in the criminal justice system
who have mental illness or substance abuse disorders. Each of the commissions
appointed members to serve on the study committee. In addition, a work
group comprised of consumers, providers, defense attorneys, law enforcement
personnel, and criminal justice agency representatives and other experts
will help identify issues, assist with data collection, and recommend
solutions for consideration by the study committee.
The committee's review will
include the (i) incidence of mental illness and substance abuse among
offenders; (ii) current system for delivering mental health and substance
abuse services, including assessment, treatment, post-release, and follow-up;
(iii) model treatment programs for offenders; (iv) costs and benefits
of private versus public delivery of treatment services; (v) need for
specialized training of local law enforcement and court personnel; and
(vi) funding, sources of funding and legislation required to ensure adequate
assessment and treatment services.
Staff presented background material
from national and state studies related to the prevalence of mental illness
and substance abuse disorders in the criminal justice population, indicators
of the problems that create gaps in services, and model programs for the
treatment of adult and juvenile offenders. To prepare for in-depth discussions
at future meetings, the staff outlined the adult criminal justice system
from arrest to post trial and sentencing and described the mental health
and substance abuse services available to persons who are under the supervision
of the Department of Corrections (DOC). Staff also described Virginia's
juvenile justice system from arrest to disposition and informed the committee
about certain demographics related to juveniles in detention homes and
state juvenile facilities.
A public hearing followed the
general meeting at which 15 people either spoke or submitted written testimony:
- A parent emphasized that
the problems associated with the stigma and treatment of mental illness
and substance abuse affect many families in Virginia and urged the committee
to examine the issues and reshape public policy to provide solutions.
- A representative of the
Coalition for the Mentally Disabled Citizens of Virginia urged the study
committee to hold a full public discussion, including the opportunity
for consumers and advocates to take a significant part.
- The Virginia Municipal League
cited the shortage of substance abuse services in local jails and mental
health services in detention homes.
- A representative of the
Charlottesville/Albemarle Regional Jail spoke about positive results
of the therapeutic community in the jail.
- Dealing with mental health
problems is the most serious child care issue in the detention homes,
according to a spokesperson for the Middle Peninsula Juvenile Detention
Center (18 localities). On any given day, 35 to 40 percent of the residents
are taking medication for mental health problems. Approximately 12 youths
per year require emergency hospitalization, but beds are often difficult
to find. When the youths are returned to detention, they will frequently
have medications but follow-up or case management, monitoring and counseling
are not available. More training and interaction with mental health
professionals is needed to help the detention home staff who deal with
these youths on a day-to-day basis. Funds have not been available to
provide in-house mental health staff and on-site services, such as assessment
and counseling. Recidivism and referrals to state juvenile facilities
could be reduced with better local services.
- A consumer advocate described
the need for more staff in local jails to provide services to individuals
with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
- The mother of an inmate
with mental illness related her personal experiences with trying to
get help for her son.
- Two members of Substance
Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance described their experiences with
local jails and their difficulty with obtaining identification of and
services for co-occurring disorders, mental illness and substance abuse.
- A representative of the
Highlands Juvenile Detention Center cited the need for in-house mental
- Staff from the Action Alliance
for Virginia's Children and Youth emphasized the need for services in
the community to prevent offenses from occurring in the first place.
The staff also noted that Medicaid is not available to youths in detention
- The jail services manager
for District 19 Community Services Board noted that a waiting list exists
for the therapeutic communities in local jails.
- A staff member of the Hampton/Newport
News Community Services Board cited the limitations on psychiatric services.
The general population must wait two to three months for an appointment
with a psychiatrist, making services to detention homes and the travel
time involved almost impossible. In response to a question, she said
that a combination of factors (turf, personalities, resources, etc.)
determines whether cooperation between jails and community services
boards works in some localities and not others.
The Honorable Stephen H. Martin,
Legislative Services contact: Nancy L. Roberts
RECORD | SJR 440 HOME
| Legislative Services | General