As a county judge, Steven Leifman spends every day grappling with a problem most people prefer to forget – trying to heal the mental health system.
He sees its failures every day. About 30 percent of women in Florida’s prisons have a serious mental illness; about 14 percent of men do, he says. Nationwide, the figures are much the same.
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Healing the System: Leifman’s reforms
• CIT (Crime Intervention Team): Police, supervisors, corrections officers and 911 operators all earn raises for attending a week of crisis intervention team training.
• Mental health docket: Most charges can be dropped for defendants who succeed with behavioral health care and/or treatment. Peer counselors stay with them for a year.
• Forensic Alternative Center: Rather than going to state hospitals, severely mentally ill felons deemed incompetent to stand trial go to an in-patient program at Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital. The focus isn’t on preparing them for court, but for a return to the community.
• Jail diversion: A shuttered state forensic hospital is being retooled as a jail alternative and community center for people with mental illness.
• Teacher training: Educators are learning how to spot signs of mental illness and refer kids to care.
Source: Palm Beach Post research.
About this series
Since a few months after Newton massacre, a team of Palm Beach Post reporters has spent hours interviewing stakeholders, visiting treament centers and spending time with some of the most vulnerable involved with Florida’s mental health system. Today, in our final installment, we offer some possible solutions through a champion who appears to be making a difference.
Read the whole series online at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/s/health/