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De Blasio Administration Announces Task Force On Behavioral Health And The Criminal Justice System

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:

  • Steven Banks, Commissioner, Human Resources Administration
  • Mary Bassett, Commissioner, Department of Health and Mental Health
  • Ana Bermudez, Commissioner, Department of Probation
  • William Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department
  • Gladys Carrion, Commissioner, Administration for Children's Services
  • Zachary Carter, Corporation Counsel
  • Daniel Nigro, Incoming Commissioner, New York City Fire Department
  • Dean Fuleihan, Director, Office of Management and Budget
  • Terrance Holliday, Commissioner, Mayor's Office of Veteran Affairs
  • Joseph Ponte, Commissioner, Department of Correction
  • Dr. Ramanathan Raju, President and CEO of HHC
  • Gilbert Taylor, Commissioner, Department of Homeless Services
  • Gregory Allen, Director of Program Development, New York State Department of Health
  • Joel Copperman, CEO, CASES (representing New York City providers)
  • Margaret Egan, New York State Assistant Secretary for Public Safety
  • Seymour James, Attorney-in-Chief of the Criminal Defense Practice, Legal Aid Society (representing New York City public defenders)
  • Lawrence K. Marks, First Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, New York State Unified Court System
  • Ann Marie T. Sullivan, MD, Acting Commissioner, Office of Mental Health, New York State Department of Health
  • Cyrus Vance, New York County District Attorney (representing New York City District Attorneys)

Expert advisors:

  • Michael Jacobson, Director, CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance
  • Stephanie Le Melle, MD, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry
  • John Monahan, PhD, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Steven Rosenberg, President, Community Oriented Correctional Health Services
  • Henry Steadman, President, Policy Research Associates

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