June 2, 2014
Task force to identify effective and appropriate options to address issues of mental illness and substance abuse at every stage of the criminal justice system
Task force to develop action plan to improve public safety this September
NEW YORK—The de Blasio administration today announced the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System that will develop a strategic, actionable plan to transform the city's criminal justice system, so that it addresses the needs of individuals with behavioral and mental health issues more appropriately and effectively. The task force will recommend and implement strategies to ensure proper diversion routes and treatment for people with mental illness or substance abuse within the criminal justice system, as well as before and after contact with the system.
Co-Chaired by Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli and Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer, the task force is composed of commissioners from city, state, and law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, defenders and providers in the intersecting worlds of criminal justice and behavioral health, and will be advised by experts from the private sector.
"For far too long, our city's jails have acted as de facto mental health facilities. Everyone deserves access to quality medical and mental health care—and addressing these needs within the criminal justice system will improve public safety for all New Yorkers. I've charged the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System with developing innovative strategies to transform, reform and update this city's criminal justice system. In the interest of justice and public safety, the task force will take a comprehensive look at how, as a city, we can provide real, lasting mental health and addiction treatment for those in need," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The task force will create opportunities to reduce crime and costs by treating the mentally ill outside of the criminal justice system; identify effective approaches to medical and mental health care while incarcerated; develop better standards for transition from jail back into the community; and establish targeted treatment upon release. As part of these efforts, the task force will develop strategies for the city's jails to improve the provision of mental health services for mentally ill inmates already in the criminal justice system, which place particular strain on the system. The task force will present its action plan to the Mayor in September, 100 days after its first meeting on June 18.
Looking at each point in the criminal justice system, the task force will analyze how the system currently operates in each borough to identify what is and is not currently working. That analysis will form the basis of the action plan. Aided by nationally known experts, the task force will also consider successful approaches used across the nation and around the globe.
"Arrestees with behavioral health issues often cycle through the city's courts, jails and homeless shelters without treatment targeted at the underlying issues that contributed to their arrests in the first place," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. "The Task Force on Behavior Health and the Criminal Justice System will bring everyone to the table to develop policies that best serve the individual and the city's needs."
"This is just an initial step in our efforts to bring all elements of the criminal justice system together to create a cohesive system, improve public safety and drive down crime," said Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Glazer. "The task force is going to develop real, actionable solutions to address the underlying challenges facing individuals and agencies not just at arrest, but well before and after."
The Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System will coordinate its work and share experts with the Task Force On Juvenile Justice Educational and Mental Health Supports (Juvenile Health Task Force), chaired by Commissioner Gladys Carrion of the Administration for Children's Services.
The task force will also share its data and findings and coordinate its recommendations with the Juvenile Health Task Force to make sure its services and outcomes for youth and adults are comprehensive and optimized. The Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation and the District Attorney of New York have generously supported this work and will serve in an ex-officio capacity on the task force.
Task Force on Behavior Health and the Criminal Justice System executive committee: