News Item
Ramsey County Mental Health Court Named a 2015-2016 National Criminal Justice/Mental Health Collaboration Learning Site

Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), has selected the Ramsey County Mental Health Court (RCMHC) as one of only four peer-to-peer learning sites in the nation as part of the National Criminal Justice/Mental Health Collaboration Learning Sites Program.
The RCMHC directs eligible defendants with mental health disorders from the criminal justice system to community-based mental health, substance abuse, and support services.  The RCMHC program has produced a number of public benefits including reduction in jail crowding, expedited case processing, an increase in services for mentally ill offenders, and reduced recidivism.
The development of the RCMHC has required a significant and complex change in the manner in which the counties, courts, and communities work together. The RCMHC model has a proven and documented track record of success through a significant reduction in program graduate recidivism rates, along with a reduction in the cost of recidivism.  In a one-year follow-up, only three percent of program graduates had new charges, compared to 22 percent in a comparison group. Results remained consistent in the three-year follow-up, with only 11 percent of program graduates having new charges, compared to 35 percent of a comparison group.
The 2015-2016 Mental Health Court Collaboration Learning Sites were selected by the CSG Justice Center and BJA as examples of successful collaborations between the criminal justice and mental health systems that provide a range of effective responses to people with mental illnesses who are involved with the criminal justice system. These four sites have demonstrated an ability to provide guidance to other jurisdictions interested in starting or expanding a collaborative mental health court. 
Criminal Justice/Mental Health Collaboration Learning Sites work with the CSG Justice Center and BJA to share their expertise with other agencies across the country. The 2015-2016 learning sites will, for example, host jurisdictions interested in learning more about their programs; answer questions from the field through phone, e-mail, and online training sessions; and work with the CSG Justice Center to develop resources that help advance the field.
In addition to RCMHC, the three other 2015-2016 national Criminal Justice/Mental Health Collaboration Mental Health Court Learning Sites are:
  • Bonneville County (ID) Mental Health Court
  • Dougherty County (GA) Superior Court Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division
  • New York (NY) EAC’s Mental Health Diversion Program
State and community leaders offered the following comments about RCMHC and its designation as a 2015-2016 Mental Health Court Collaboration Learning Site:
“A reclusive man with eighteen detox admissions graduates with eighteen months sobriety and greater social engagement, a woman homeless for four years now works and has her own housing, a mother addresses her depression and anxiety and re-establishes her relationship with her son – these are some of our participants who are no longer engaged in criminal behavior.  We thank the Center for State Court Governments and all those who work to bring stability to our mentally-ill neighbors while improving public safety, especially the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Ramsey County Mental Health Services, and our coordinator, case managers, probation officer, attorneys, and interns.”  William H. Leary, Ramsey County Mental Health Court Judge
“In too many places around the country, we're using jails and prisons as a substitute for a properly functioning mental health system," said Senator Al Franken, who wrote a letter of support for the RCMHC. "This is a problem—it doesn’t help people with mental illness, who would benefit more from treatment, and it's forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for high incarceration costs and overcrowded correctional facilities. That’s why I’ve been fighting in Washington for more resources to assist our mental health courts. This important new designation will let Ramsey County support more Minnesotans by providing them with the critical mental health services they need.”
“For over a decade, the RCMHC has delivered on its commitment to provide targeted services to those with special needs in our criminal justice system with care, compassion and consideration,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. “The low recidivism rates and positive individual outcomes speak volumes for the great partnerships that make this program a success.”
“The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office is eager to support the RCMHC on this very important initiative.  We have seen increasing numbers of men and women entering our detention facility who would be better served by the Mental Health Court and the associated professional resources.  Too frequently, family and friends run out of options to meet mental health needs and their loved one's behavior results in an arrest. We are seeking to collaborate with our criminal justice partners so that the detention center is not the end of the story, but rather a new beginning that would offer the opportunity of vital mental health treatment.  The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office is looking forward to partnering with the Mental Health Court and developing a framework to better serve our residents living with mental illness.”  Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom
“Addressing underlying factors that may contribute to criminal behavior is key to long-term success for individuals who have a mental illness or substance use disorder,” said Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “Ramsey County Mental Health Court is an excellent example of how we can improve outcomes and reduce costs.”
“NAMI Minnesota is very pleased that the great collaborative work of the Ramsey County Mental Health Court is being recognized nationally as a leader that can help other courts implement this model.  Mental health courts are a key component in reducing the ongoing involvement of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. The Ramsey County Mental Health Court has demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing recidivism, increasing access to treatment, and improving outcomes.  This is a well-deserved recognition.” Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of NAMI Minnesota
For more information on the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Collaboration Learning Sites Program, a collaboration between the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, please visit: