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December 2016

Next Meeting

COMIO's next meeting will include an Issue-Specific Workshop on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 from 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM and a full Council Meeting on Thursday, February 2, from 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Both meetings will be held at the following location:
Board of Parole Hearing Executive Board Room
1515 K Street, 5th Floor, Suite 550
Sacramento, CA 95814
For the full list of COMIO Meetings for 2017 please click here.


COMIO 2016 Annual Report Released

Difficult decisions are ahead for local and state policymakers. Individuals with mental illness are a growing proportion of the jail and prison population putting at risk resources needed to support community alternatives. Waiting to address behavioral health needs due to incarceration will pull scarce resources towards the wrong end of the system. The time to invest in strategies that divert individuals from incarceration and enhance service and housing capacity for those with high needs and risks is now. This report provides guidance and encourages decision-making that supports the individual living with behavioral health needs, as well as, the various systems trying to serve that individual while fulfilling their own obligations and duties. 

Below is a summary of the most pertinent themes raised that influenced specific findings and recommendations. View the full report here.  
  • The stigma associated with mental illness, substance use disorder, and justice status must be recognized and not tolerated to ensure that policies and practices do not perpetuate inequities.
  • Assumptions about what works and does not work must be challenged by insisting on measuring both reductions in recidivism and behavioral health symptoms.
  • The majority of justice-involved individuals with mental illness have a co-occurring substance use disorder which complicates treatment and recovery. Access to adequate services for co-occurring disorders, substance misuse, medical conditions and qualified staff is essential.
  • Sharing sensitive information, both health and justice data, is essential to target efforts to prevent incarceration.
  • Assessment tools must be utilized to identify the level of risk and need of each justice-involved individual with mental illness to assure that appropriate treatment and services are provided and directed towards reducing recidivism.
  • Maximize the use of federally supported Medi-Cal funding in all diversion efforts.
  • The housing crisis, high cost and accessibility of housing, and stigma towards justice-involved individuals with mental illness are real and present barriers to efforts to build and provide community alternatives to incarceration whether it be inpatient facilities, crisis residential, group homes, or independent living. Broad, comprehensive, and creative efforts beyond addressing the needs of the homeless or at-risk of homelessness are needed.
  • Support expanded efforts to keep individuals with mental illness out of jails through examining bail and pre-trial detention policies that have a disproportional impact on individuals with mental illness.
  • Consider how mental illness as a basis for diversion could be expanded. Review which offenses could be additionally considered for authorization of diversion.    
  • Crisis response is not just about trained first responders. What is needed is a planned response that goes beyond the initial contact and leads to ongoing treatment in the community. Without developing these capacities, no amount of training can resolve law enforcement’s current burden.
  • Law enforcement and community correctional officers are faced with an increasingly challenging mental health population. They need opportunities to build skills and support their own well-being so they can perform an increasingly demanding job.
  • High-risk and high need justice-involved youth are congregating in our detention facilities and are in need of foster care reforms to be effective. Continued efforts to ensure the “difficult” to serve youth, get the services they need, especially substance use treatment.
  • At a state-level prioritize support for data infrastructure, including at the local level, but only collect data needed to monitor trends to inform policies and practices. Support local entities gain the capacity for further research and evaluation efforts on best practices.
21st Century Cures Act Passed
In December of 2016 Congress passed and President Obama signed a $6 billion public health and medical research bill, called the 21st Century Cures Act. The act includes a variety of health initiatives, from authorizing money to fight the nation’s opioid crisis to support for expanded mental health services and efforts to decrease the incarceration of individuals with behavioral health issues. The Act with strong bipartisan support represents solid progressive policy regarding the need to address co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders, particularly to prevent incarceration.
COMIO Staff summarized some of the major elements of the act pertaining to the intersection of criminal justice and behavioral health systems including:
  • Medicaid Coverage, Delivery and Administrative Changes
  • Mental Health Parity and Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • Mental Health Authorizations
  • Criminal Justice and Mental Health
    • Enacts the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act (CJMHA)
    • Reauthorizes the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA).
View full summary here: 21st Century Cures Act Fact Sheet

California Mental Heath Advocates for Children and Youth Annual Conference - Call for Papers

California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY) is holding their 37th Annual Conference in Asilomar from May 17-19, 2017. CMHACY is currently having a “Call for Papers” in preparation for the conference, details can be found here.  This is an opportunity for those county departments with emerging best practices, encouraging partnerships, and improved outcomes to share their successes on the statewide stage for children’s behavioral health-probation-child welfare-special education services and supports. The CMHACY conference has included probation focused workshops for over 20 years now, and is continuing their tradition of providing staff training, program development, and a network of like-minded professionals and para-professionals. For more information about CMHACY, visit their website at