Friday, July 25
NAMI Broward County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) . HOPE. Young Adults Support Group for people between the ages of 22 and 49 who are diagnosed with mental illness at 12:00, NAMI Office 4161 NW Fifth Street, Suite 203, Plantation. Free. Call 954-316-9907.
Friday, July 25
NAMI Broward County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) . HOPE. Young Adults Speaker Meeting for people between the ages of 22 and 49 who are diagnosed with mental illness at 5:30, Rebels. 3400 N. 29 Avenue, Hollywood. Free. Call 954-316-9907.
NAMI Broward County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) . HOPE. Young Adults Group Bowling for people between the ages of 22 and 49 who are diagnosed with mental illness at 2:00, Sawgrass Lanes, 8501 N. University Dr, Tamarac . Call for details. Call 954-316-9907.
Saturday, July 19 NAMI Broward County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Family Support Group for Families and Loved ones of people diagnosed with mental illness at 10:00, South Florida State Hospital / GeoCare, 800 East Cypress Drive, Pembroke Pines. Free. Call 954-316-9907.
Sun Sentinel Op Ed
June 12, 2014 | By Howard Finkelstein
Armed with a scathing grand jury report, I pushed, along with other mental health advocates, for the country’s first mental health court. Our court was copied by justice systems around the country and the world. Its success led to expansion to felony cases. But the felony court has lost its way. Overcome by numbers and process, it has lost sight of the individual.
The court was created to ensure community treatment for mentally-ill, intellectually disabled and autistic defendants. It was intended to stop the revolving door between the jail and mental illness. But felony mental health court has simply streamlined the incarceration of the disabled. The very existence of the court has justified the arrest of mentally-ill and intellectually disabled people. Instead of a place to get help, police and prosecutors have used the court as a tool for fighting crime.
By making it easier to “handle” these individuals in the criminal justice system, we have established the criminal justice system as the primary source of mental health treatment in his county. The court simply moves these defendants through the criminal justice system and ultimately into prison.
Arrests are made, charges are filed and cases languish in court even though a defendant is incompetent to proceed and will never be competent to proceed. Rather than helping, the court has become an albatross weighing down the mentally ill.
These prolonged prosecutions unnecessarily burden taxpayers with countless hours of judicial and attorney time and fruitless competency restoration services in cases that should be dismissed or should have never been filed.
The creation of the court has backfired — it has effectively institutionalized mental health “treatment” in the criminal justice system. We need to realize that this treatment is too costly. Re-active treatment happens after a crime is committed and a mentally-disabled person has suffered and spiraled out of control.
We need to keep the mentally disabled out of our jails. That is what we hoped when we began the court. But that’s not what has happened. So now we need to fund treatment before people are arrested — before crimes are committed and people are victimized. Mental health court was created with the best of intentions — but the disabled have been sacrificed in the name of case counts and red tape. It’s time to focus on the disabled again. The place to start is outside the jailhouse door.
Howard Finkelstein is Broward County’s chief public defender.