Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2007, $249,825)
The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP), seeks to increase public safety through innovative cross-system collaboration for individuals with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal or juvenile justice systems. This program is funded through the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004 (MIOTCRA) (Public Law 108-414). The program is designed to increase public safety by facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, and mental health and substance abuse treatment systems to increase access to services for offenders with mental illness. Activities under this initiative encourage early intervention for 'system-involved' individuals with mental illness; provides new and existing mental health courts with various treatment options; maximizes diversion opportunities for nonviolent offenders with mental illness and co-occurring disorders; promotes training for justice and treatment professionals on criminal justice processes and mental health and substance abuse issues; and facilitates communication, collaboration, and the delivery of support services among justice professionals, treatment and related service providers, and governmental partners.
The Reentry Policy Council estimates that, nationally, 8-16% of the prison population, and 10% of the jail population, has a diagnosable mental illness. Persons with mental illness are significantly overrepresented within the criminal justice system. Recent research cited by the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project estimates that 72-90% of mentally ill offenders will recidivate and those who receive fewer supports and services while incarcerated were more likely to be detained multiple times after release. The extraordinary and precipitous rate at which these offenders are re-offending causes significant alarm and places a heavy burden on our communities and on the criminal justice system. To address this extraordinarily high percentage, the Cobb County Community Services Board (CCCSB), a county public provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment, and the Cobb County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) will implement the Learn to Earn Post-Release Project to increase the number of offenders with mental illnesses or co-occurring disorders who attain measurable gains in mental health recovery, employment, and personal behavior. Fifty offenders will receive direct support as the program offers supported self-employment services, ancillary mental health recovery and social services, business planning education, and assistance accessing capital for eligible offenders with mental illnesses or co-occurring disorders. Data collected during the program will allow for the creation of a summary report of the process and outcome studies. The report will provide objective and evaluative information about the Learn to Earn Post Release Project, and information and 'lessons learned' that will be helpful for the replication of the project in other much needed communities.