Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $549,826)
Pinellas County is requesting a three-year BJA Justice and Mental Health Collaborative Program (JMHCP) grant to plan for and implement a Mental Health Court (MHC). Problem to be addressed: This project aims to address the frequent jailing of Pinellas residents with serious mental health disorders by diverting them away from the criminal justice system and into community-based treatment and support services. Primary activities and deliverables: Upon award, the project director will convene the MHC Steering Committee to prepare a comprehensive Planning and Implementation Guide for the MHC, participate inter-disciplinary training opportunities, conduct outreach activities, establish a comprehensive data collection plan, develop effective mental illness and criminogenic assessment protocols, and ensure the provision of evidence-based mental health and substance abuse treatment as well as necessary MHC programmatic support for criminal justice agencies. Service area, population and demographics: The MHC will serve residents of the geographic catchment area of Pinellas County (608 square miles) on Florida’s Central West Coast. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population of Pinellas County to be 970,637 (2017), with the majority of residents (83%) being White (alone), 11% identifying as Black or African American and 9.7% identifying as Hispanic or Latino. The county is primarily urban with a census rurality level of 0.3 percent, and a median household income of approximately $48,698. Population of focus and number to be served: The MHC will divert approximately 80 (40 per year) third degree felony offenders and select misdemeanor offenders with serious mental health disorders and possible co-occurring substance abuse disorders. Program-specific priority areas: The project proposes, through the active participation of sub-recipients and other stakeholders, to implement a mental health court to reduce recidivism and promote public health and safety, use validated assessment tools to prioritize defendants at risk of recidivism, and provide effective transition and reentry services. The lead applicant is Pinellas County Government. Partners will include the Sixth Judicial Circuit, the State Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, and Directions for Living (mental health service provider). Contracts/MOUs will be prepared to document these key players and their roles. The planning team would involve additional stakeholders.