As Massachusetts considers a sweeping criminal justice bill, it is imperative that legislators take into consideration evidence-based programs that are successfully diverting individuals with mental health and substance abuse conditions from the criminal justice system and preventing recidivism.
Individuals with behavioral health conditions are vastly overrepresented in the Massachusetts criminal justice system, and at every stage of the judicial process, at great cost to the Commonwealth. More than 53 percent of individuals incarcerated in Massachusetts prisons and jails have been previously diagnosed with a behavioral health condition. The cost of treating just those with serious mental illness, nearly 3,000 prisoners, is upwards of $300 million annually. Yet most of these imprisoned individuals do not receive proper treatment for the severity of their disease, and many are repeatedly and chronically involved in our criminal justice system.
If these problems are addressed, the Commonwealth could save millions of dollars and improve the lives of thousands of its citizens.
There are proven ways to interrupt the cycle of recidivism among this population and even prevent individuals struggling with behavioral health conditions from entering the system in the first place. Evidence-based programs from across the country — including several here in Massachusetts — implement interventions at specific inflection points that have shown significant success at improving criminal diversion, community re-entry, and recidivism rates.
For example, pre-arrest diversion has been shown to be successful when law enforcement and mental health professionals respond together to identified behavioral health emergencies. Often called Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs), these teams receive training that focuses on de-escalation and redirection to mental health treatment services. In Bexar County, Texas, the CIT teams have access to a 24-hour Crisis Care Center which treats individuals within an hour of arrival, saving $2.4 million in jail costs tied to public intoxication, $1.5 million in mental health services, and $1 million in emergency room costs. A similar program in Minneapolis saved $2.16 for every dollar spent on its triage center, and one in Salt Lake City led to a 90 percent decrease in ER visits by patients with psychiatric conditions.
Here in Massachusetts, the National Association of Mental Illness-Massachusetts Criminal Justice Diversion Project (CJDP) works to prevent the unnecessary arrest and detention of individuals with mental illness. The CJDP achieves this goal by supporting and educating police departments and other first responders in engaging with individuals experiencing mental health crisis, and fostering connections between law enforcement, behavioral health providers, and other community stakeholders.
Through police education and support programs, CJDP has diverted some 200 individuals from the criminal justice system at a savings of $1.3 million in ER and jail-related costs. Massachusetts’ hospitals and emergency departments could benefit from the relief of those presenting with behavioral health conditions, and these individuals would certainly benefit from more appropriate care and avoiding incarceration.
The Massachusetts criminal justice reform legislation is rightfully focused on the reduction of recidivism, but we cannot discuss recidivism reduction without discussing issues of mental health, nor can we focus on recidivism reduction without the proper investment in criminal diversion. The best way to keep from reoffending is to not have been incarcerated in the first place.
Massachusetts cannot afford to be pennywise and pound foolish; programs such as the Crisis Care Center and the Criminal Justice Diversion Project are worth the return on investment. It is our hope that legislators take these into consideration as they move through the reform process.
Cheri Andes is Executive Director of NAMI-Massachusetts.
DMH will host its annual series of Citizens Legislative Breakfasts in the coming months. This is an opportunity for members of the mental health community to meet with their legislators, thank them for their support and discuss how DMH helps people with mental illnesses recover and live satisfying lives in communities of their choice. It is also an opportunity for consumers and family members to share good news and success stories about their life experiences.
The State House events start with registration and refreshments from 9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. and the program starts promptly at 10:00 a.m. and runs until approximately 11:00 a.m.
Wednesday, February 7, Metro Boston Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
(Great Hall, State House)
Sen. Joseph Boncore
Rep. Daniel Ryan
Thursday, February 8, Southeast Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
(Great Hall, State House)
Sen. Marc Pacheco
Rep. James Cantwell
Friday, March 2, Central Mass Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
(Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, Large Conf. Room, K2-A2)
Sen. President Harriette Chandler
Rep. David Muradian
Friday, March 9, Western Mass Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
(Springfield Technical Community College, Scibelli Hall)
Sen. Stanley Rosenberg
Rep. Peter Kocot
Wednesday, March 14, Northeast Area Citizens Legislative Breakfast
(Great Hall, State House)
Sen. Joan Lovely
Rep. Bradford Hill
At the direction of Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Secretary Marylou Sudders, the Department of Mental Health (DMH), together with Office of MassHealth (MassHealth) and the Department of Public Health (DPH), in partnership with the Division of Insurance (DOI), convened a task force to develop expedited psychiatric inpatient admission interventions available for all individuals boarding in Emergency Departments (EDs) for extended periods of time.
Presentations and listening sessions pertaining to the new policy are being held statewide and online. These sessions are open to the public and while registration is not required, we ask that you do register for the meeting(s) you plan to attend at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/expedadmis2018
Tuesday, January 16, 1:00-3:00
581 Faunce Corner Road, Dartmouth, MA 02747 (Directions)
Gymnasium, located near rear of building with its own entrance (look for the signs)
Wednesday, January 17, 10:00-12:00
Whitney Avenue Conference Center
361 Whitney Avenue Holyoke, MA 01040 (Directions)
Tuesday, January 23, 1:00-3:00
Department of Mental Health Central Office – Boston Room, Main Entrance, Plaza Level
25 Staniford Street, Boston (Directions)
Wednesday, January 24, 10:00-12:00
Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association – First Floor Conference Room
500 District Ave, Burlington (Directions)
Tuesday, January 30, 1:00-3:00
(Register Here and instructions for participation will be sent to you)
Wednesday, January 31, 10:00-12:00
University of Massachusetts Medical School – Board Room at Biotech 1
365 Plantation Street, Suite 300, Worcester (Directions)
Changes are Coming to the MassHealth Program Starting on March 1, 2018!
If MassHealth is Your Primary Insurer there are New Health Plans for you to Choose from.
Here are some ways you can get help with understanding health plan options.
1.Come to a MassHealth Enrollment Event. (See the list linked to maps/directions).Talk one-on-one about MassHealth, including coverage, eligibility, and health plan enrollment. MassHealth staff will be available to help you with new health plan options, change your primary care provider, and answer other questions you have about MassHealth.
If you attend, it will help to bring the following information with you
2. Talk to a Certified Application Counselor or Navigator. Go to: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/enrollment-assisters to make an appointment with someone near you.
3. Visit the MassHealth Choices website. Go to: https://masshealthchoices.com/ to learn about the coming changes, compare plans, and enroll in a new plan.
4. Call MassHealth customer service. Call 1-800-841-2900 to talk to a MassHealth representative.
NAMI Mass accomplishes a lot, with a little, for individuals with mental health conditions and their families – BUT there is still so much to do. YOU can make a difference by keeping your donation local and contributing to our year-end appeal today! Make your online donation at http://namimass.org/donate/make-a-difference-fund or make a check payable to NAMI Massachusetts and mail it to: NAMI Massachusetts, The Schrafft’s Center Suite 1M17, 529 Main St., Boston, MA 02129
• 2,231 inquiries fielded by NAMI Mass Compass information and resource helpline.
• 19,287 individuals reached through our education and support programs; NAMI Basics, Allies for Student Mental Health, NAMI Family-to-Family, NAMI Family Support Group, NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups, NAMI Peer-to-Peer and NAMI In Our Own Voice.
• 1,570 police and first responders trained through our Criminal Justice Diversion Program.
• 159,543 users accessed our website www.namimass.org.
Thank you and best wishes for a healthy, joyful, prosperous and peaceful holiday season from all of us at NAMI Mass.
Patrol Officer Timothy Stephenson joined the Brookline Police Department in 1996. Officer Stephenson serves on the department’s Crisis Intervention Team.
This past June, Officer Stephenson responded to a 911 call reporting that a man was on the roof of a psychiatric hospital and threatening to jump. Three other Brookline police officers had secured the scene and tried to engage the individual in conversation to no avail. It was a tenuous and tension-filled situation. Officer Stephenson credits the de-escalation techniques he learned in the weeklong Crisis intervention training (CIT) that he received as a Brookline Police Officer with his ability to negotiate the situation.
He gained access to the roof and introduced himself in a gentle voice. Recognizing that being approached by a police officer is often frightening for someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis, Officer Stephenson asked permission to come closer and speak with him. Through his calm, quiet, reassuring manner Officer Stephenson was able to convince the individual to step away from the roof’s edge and to come with him back into the hospital. He then spent an additional forty-five minutes talking and helping him to reach out to his family.
Officer Stephenson’s story and his commitment to ensuring people with behavioral health challenges live safe and healthy lives in the community exemplify the importance of NAMI Mass’ five-year-old Criminal Justice Diversion Project (CJDP). You can show your appreciation of Officer Stephenson and the education he received because of NAMI Mass’ partnerships with police departments by donating to NAMI Mass’ Make a Difference Fund. A gift to NAMI Mass goes to work locally in the communities where you live and work.
CJDP is now working assiduously to get police departments in all 351 towns and cities trained in CIT and to divert individuals with a mental illness from incarceration. NAMI MASS is also working with legislators to change public policy. Your support has enabled us to:
I became the new Executive Director of NAMI Mass because I care deeply about its mission, values, and vision. I am excited to be a part of this organization and to join you in your efforts to ensure that everyone in this Commonwealth living with a mental health condition can receive quality services, stigma-free.
At this time of giving, please contribute as generously as possible so that we can multiply stories such as Officer Stephenson’s and maintain our educational and support programs and advocacy on significant mental health issues for all of you: our donors, friends, and members. NAMI Mass is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization. Your donation is tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.
Thank you and have a healthy, joyful and peaceful holiday season.
President, NAMI Mass Board of Directors
When you become a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI you become a member at the National, State, and local Affiliate level. Joining NAMI increases the power of your voice to advocate for millions of Americans affected by mental illness and to fight mental illness stigma and the resulting discrimination. Some of the additional benefits of NAMI Membership are:
Currently NAMI Membership is purchased as follows:
Effective July 1, 2017 NAMI Membership Dues will change:
Many members of Congress are intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), (Obamacare). NAMI Mass strongly opposes repeal and recently joined the Massachusetts Coalition for Coverage and Care.
The two goals of the coalition are to:
The coalition will increase knowledge about the progress that Massachusetts has made because of the state’s health coverage law (Chapter 58) and the ACA, broaden understanding of what is at stake if the ACA is repealed and/or replaced, and identify actions that the state and others can take to protect coverage and care for residents of the Commonwealth.
We need to let U.S. Senators and Representatives from other states know that if the ACA is repealed, people with mental health issues will suffer. Please talk to your family and friends living in other states and ask them to contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives to support the ACA.
When people do not have access to mental health or substance use care, many seek help in emergency departments where they can wait for days, or even weeks, for psychiatric care. Others end up out of school, out of work, in jail, on the streets or-tragically-die by suicide.
Mental health and Substance Use Coverage
The current requirement that health plans cover mental health and substance use disorders and at the same level as other health conditions (parity) remains critical as we seek to better address mental health needs and lower the annual economic cost of mental illness.
Extended Coverage for Young Adults until age 26
The ACA allows families to cover young adults through age 26 on their health plans. This is an important option since 3 out of 4 individuals with a mental health condition have symptoms by age 24.
Health Plan safeguards
Once a person is covered, there are safeguards to ensure quality coverage and that a person can’t be dropped from their plan (rescission) or turned down for renewal just because they are ill or using services (guaranteed renewability). People cannot be charged more based on their health status, have annual or lifetime limits on their coverage or be subject to exorbitant deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses.
Medicaid (or MassHealth) and Mental Health
The ACA extended coverage to approximately 20 million people across the country and many of them have mental health conditions.
Please thank your U.S. Senator and Representatives from Massachusetts for supporting the ACA, and talk to your family and friends in other states to ask them to contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives to support the ACA so people with mental health and substance use needs don’t suffer.
“NAMI Mass changed my life.”
It all started when Allie was 11. Her parents moved from the small town where she was raised to a strange, big city. Her beloved grandmother died. She started attending a new school and burst into tears on her first day of sixth grade. The bullying started immediately. “Cry baby,” they taunted. She started having panic attacks. Her grades suffered. Her parents, deep into alcoholism, left her feeling alone and isolated.
“I ate my lunch in the guidance counselor’s office but I received no guidance. It was the first time I ever felt alone, and I began to shut down. I kept to myself, but it didn’t quiet the other kids. The only thing I could do was completely shut down into a depression and stay there until I graduated high school.”
And even when she met and married Rick, the toxicity of her family infiltrated her relationship and led her to attempt to take her own life.
“I gave no sign that ending my life was where I was. I only knew what I had seen in movies and decided on pills and alcohol to do the deed.”
After being treated for the suicide attempt and a three-week stay at a psychiatric facility, Allie entered a six-week outpatient program. Rick thought she was cured and that the whole episode was behind them. But it wasn’t. Allie still felt isolated, and the panic attacks returned. Rick didn’t understand. He thought she’d “get over it.” Their marriage was in tatters. They fought. She told him to divorce her. Rick agreed to go to couples therapy, but he just wasn’t receptive to talk therapy. They hit a dead end.
And then Allie found NAMI Mass.
At the suggestion of her therapist, Allie started spending Thursday nights at a NAMI Connection recovery support group meeting. She met people there who understood her issues and cared about her. She then attended a NAMI Peer-to-Peer class where she realized she was not alone, and where she found ways to express her feelings through words and photos. She went on to become a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter, sharing the story of her recovery journey.
Rick joined a NAMI Family Support Group.
“He became much more understanding and compassionate around my anxiety, mania, and depression. I now feel open to discuss with him when I feel manic and to let him know how things are going. He wants to help me through it now.”
One in five people in our state suffers from mental illness. NAMI Mass is there for them—and for their families and caregivers—to improve the quality of their lives through education, training, support, and advocacy.
Please make a difference and give as generously as you can. Thank you and best wishes for a healthy, joyful, and peaceful holiday season.
Tom Scurfield, NAMI Mass Board President
Laurie Martinelli, NAMI Mass Executive Director
Now that the elections are over, it is time to turn out attention to passing mental health reform.
Along with our common commitment to improving the lives of individual and families affected by mental illness, one of NAMI’s strengths is its diversity. We are a nonpartisan grassroots movement—with advocates of every political stripe in both “red” and “blue” states.
This bipartisanship is a hallmark of NAMI and it is also a welcome hallmark of mental health reform legislation. We are fortunate to have strong champions across the aisle in Congress, such as U.S. Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
These champions and many other Congressional leaders worked together over the past two years to pass Representative Murphy’s bill, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”, by an overwhelming vote of 422-2. The Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee unanimously passed a similar bill.
With a common understanding that mental illness affects children and adults across the nation, members of Congress have shown unprecedented unity in supporting early intervention for first episode psychosis, crisis intervention services, evidence-based practices such as Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), suicide prevention and integration of health, mental health and substance use care. We are encouraged that President-elect Donald Trump, during the presidential campaign, took the position that “[t]here are promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bi-partisan support.”
NAMI calls on Congress to finish the important and significant work on mental health reform in the upcoming session. NAMI also stands ready to work with President Trump and the new Congress to address America’s largest and costliest public health crisis—the lack of effective mental health care.
Questions? Please contact Angela Kimball (email@example.com).