What problem does it solve? To develop a state-wide, community-based treatment and evaluation program for all defendants who are deemed Incompetent to Proceed/Incompetent to Stand Trial with their legal case. When people are deemed incompetent to proceed, this means that their mental illness is affecting their ability to work with their lawyer and to participate in the legal process without any violation of their civil rights. Currently, the only treatment available for this is in the state hospital system. What is your solution and who does it apply to? Bail and criminal justice reform has led to an increasing number of mentally ill defendants who are in the community not having access to resources for competency restoration treatment. Developing a division to provide oversight and competency restoration treatment in the community would fill this need and assist the courts deciding about restorability of competency, thus improving the resolution of legal cases and providing mental health treatment to an underserved population.The proposed solution is to develop a state-wide competency restoration treatment and evaluation program, building upon the already present evaluation program. The expanded program would make changes to the current evaluation procedure and would modify the inpatient evidenced-based treatment program specific to NJ statutes so that all components could be provided in the community as an outpatient program, including the addition of other treatment aspects that are essential to competency restoration treatment. What is the anticipated impact? The anticipated impact would be improved health and wellness in individuals with mental illness who are involved in the legal system by providing community-based access to competency restoration treatment. It would focus on providing comprehensive mental health services for those populations who need in the least restrictive setting, in turn, decreasing constraints on the legal system by decreasing caseloads and more quickly resolving legal cases. It would provide mental health services that do not currently exist within the state and continue to reduce costly psychiatric hospitalizations in state hospitals. It would improve staff efficiency in the current forensic evaluation program to save significant taxpayer money by more efficiently using resources. It would provide treatment and mental health monitoring to reduce potential violence risk while defendants are awaiting trial as well as assist judges in identifying treatment for defendants once the legal charges have been resolved.
Such a community program would speed up the process of evaluation, and result in a more rapid determination of what would then be required to proceed toward a final resolution of the individual's outstanding charges. The program should also reduce associated costs involved such as transportation, housing, and administrative processing.
The state psychiatric hospitals are the most restrictive settings for competency restoration. As a forensic psychologist at Ann Klein Forensic Center, I know that not every patient there for restoration requires the high degree of security. Moving some of this treatment, and the patients, to the community would allow for the inpatient facilities to focus on those that really need the heightened level of security and intervention, and would allow more patients greater freedom.
Allowing a state worker to be apart of the implementation of a state contracted program, especially in the community where they utilize the services. A program in which restoration would address the needs of the individual. The state worker would offer a great amount of experience, upon the implementation of the program in addition to hands on understanding of working with this population of individuals.
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