Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $259,810)
The City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama is disproportionately impacted by the effects of Alabama’s mental health crisis and lacking treatment infrastructure. Tuscaloosa is home to the only remaining state mental health treatment facilities in Alabama: Bryce Hospital, Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility, and Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatry Center. Massive funding cuts to the Alabama Department of Mental Health budget in 2010 resulted in extreme psychiatric bed shortages that still exist today; patients throughout the state are referred to these facilities and, upon arrival in Tuscaloosa, are placed on extensive waiting lists and forced into mainstream society with little or no mental health support. The City of Tuscaloosa seeks to better support those challenged by mental illness and divert such individuals away from unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice system through the design and implementation of the Tuscaloosa Mental Health Court Initiative (TMHCI). TMHCI will utilize evidence-based modeling to strengthen the state’s mental health ecosystem by offering wrap-around services to eligible offenders, which currently does not exist. This will be accomplished through cross-system collaboration between the mental health and criminal justice systems, designed to reduce criminal justice involvement and improve health outcomes for people with MHDs and MHSUDs who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration program will enable Tuscaloosa Municipal Court (TMC), in collaboration with Indian Rivers Behavioral Health (IRBH), to implement TMHCI following the 10 Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court as outlined by the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Additionally, TMHCI proposes programming that will meet the following program-specific priority areas: 1) Promote effective strategies to expand the use of mental health courts and related services; 2) propose interventions that have been shown by empirical evidence to reduce recidivism; and 3) use validated assessment tools to identify and prioritize individuals with a moderate or high risk of recidivism and a need for treatment services.