Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $305,822)
Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program for Arizona Grant
Court Services Division
Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts
The Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is proposing four funding programs/initiatives with the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) Grant application, with a total projected budget of $422,903. The grant funding would help support three of the projects at a statewide level, with the budgeted amount requested representing approximately 13 to 20 percent of the State’s 60 percent portion of grant funding for the stated 48-month performance period duration.
In its interim report, the Arizona Task Force on Rule 11 of Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedures and Related Matters highlighted the disproportionate number of individuals with mental illness who come in contact with the criminal justice system. Often, these individuals are low-level misdemeanor offenders who have not been adequately evaluated to determine whether they are competent to face charges. Further, with a lack of sufficient access to community-based care, Arizona has seen an increase in the number of low-level misdemeanor offenders with mental health concerns booked into jail as an attempt to secure treatment for those individuals. Unfortunately, the limited jurisdiction courts are not always equipped to work with these individuals, resulting in a revolving door of arrest and release and/or determination of incompetence and case dismissal which can transform individuals who commit low-level misdemeanors to chronic offenders. As such, the interim Task Force report emphasized the need to “develop alternative solutions to improve diversion into the mental health system where individuals and their families can find the treatment and support that improves their lives.” Further, the Task Force noted court resources can be better utilized by ensuring competency restoration is used only in appropriate situations so that courts are “sending the right people to the right system while still fully protecting individual rights.” By identifying individuals, including those with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and better distinguishing the individuals needing treatment services versus individuals needing competency restoration, courts can be more effective and efficient in improving individual outcomes and public safety.
If awarded this grant, we will be working with our partners, the Task Force (created by AO 2022-45), Mercy Care Arizona, Arizona State University, and the NCSC to make modifications regarding the issues at misdemeanor levels to improve the ability of the court to work with individuals and stop the revolving door of arrests, determination of incompetence and dismissal of cases multiple times for individuals resulting in them being serious chronic offenders, which is also a waste of criminal justice resources and shows a lack of restoration at the misdemeanor level. The Task Force’s mandate includes determining “if there are more effective alternatives to evaluating misdemeanor defendants who repeatedly fail to appear other than an in-custody evaluation process” and determining “if there are alternative practices that should be considered to provide restoration or treatment when an individual is found not competent yet restorable.”