Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $534,680)
The project encourages OJP priority areas of Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, promoting effective strategies to expand the use of mental health courts and related services, and demonstrating active participation of co-applicants in administering the project. As lead applicant, The University of Alabama’s Forensic Assessment, Intervention, Research, and Evaluation (FAIR) program will coordinate the cross-system implementation of a new jail-based competency restoration (JBCR) program, REACH, in Alabama’s underserved (urban and rural) jail settings using in-person and videoconference technology delivery.
There is pressing need for this program in Alabama, where restoration of competency to stand trial, i.e., competency restoration (CR), is currently only offered to defendants found incompetent to stand trial on an inpatient basis. This has led to the development of lengthy (eight months or more) “forensic waitlists” for admission to the state’s secure facilities to undergo CR, which infringes defendants’ due process. Alabama’s “competency crisis” has culminated in Hunter v. Boswell, which spotlights critical limitations of Alabama’s competency services. The Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) needs cross-system support, staffing, and infrastructure to remedy the crisis and promote wellbeing and justice for forensically-involved Alabamians. A JBCR program such as REACH is a viable solution for increasing ADMH’s spectrum of competency services and decreasing forensic waitlists.
To strategically address Alabama’s “competency crisis” at the system-level and develop a much-needed spectrum of CR programming, our objectives are to (1) Develop, monitor, and evaluate a cross-system competency to stand trial restoration collaboration across mental health agencies, courts, and jails in Alabama; (2) Operate the jail-based competency restoration program REACH within the Jefferson County (Birmingham location) jail; (3) Expand REACH to under resourced rural jails in Alabama via videoconference technology, and (4) Disseminate REACH to academic, practice, and policy stakeholders and plan for sustainability, scale up, and spread.
This ambitious project will produce many meaningful deliverables, but several warrant special mention. JMHCP’s return on investment will include: REACH implemented with underserved defendants in urban and rural jails, using in-person and novel videoconference programming; process and outcome evaluations, stakeholder and staff trainings, presentations, programmatic reports, and scholarly products; a JBCR Implementation Tool Kit, and an action plan for REACH sustainability, scale up, and spread. This is FAIR’s second submission to JMHCP (see awarded proposal FY21 15PBJA-21-GG-03982-MENT, currently underway). It requests $534,681 federal funding for this project.