“There’s clearly something very wrong with a society that is willing to spend more money to incarcerate people that are mentally ill than to treat them.”
–Judge Steven Leifman, Miami
A Resource for Attorneys on Forensic Mental Health and Competency Enhancement
A dearth of inpatient treatment options for people with mental illness has turned our jails and prisons into the largest mental health providers in the country. For more than 40 years, the country has been actively “deinstitutionalizing” mental health facilities in order to save taxpayer dollars. This trend began in 1963 when Congress passed the Community Mental Health Act in response to allegations of abuse at state psychiatrist hospitals. The Act was designed provide federal funding for community mental health centers; however, the Vietnam War and economic crisis hindered adequate implementation of the program.
As a result of deinstitutionalization, the lack of care opportunities for medically-needed individuals ultimately shifted the burden to the criminal justice system. While people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime, the symptoms of their illnesses can also lead to criminal violations, especially during mental health crises. As mental health professionals in criminal defense, it is our obligation to serve the needs of clients suffering from intellectual disability or mental illness. These services include forensic evaluations to determine if a client is competent to stand trial, as well as whether a client suffers from any mental impairment that may serve as mitigating factors in sentencing.
The National Alliance on Mental Health, Greater Orlando (NAMIGO) is the leading provider of free mental health classes and support groups in Central Florida. Through a partnership with the Office of the Public Defender, Orange and Osceola Counties, a focused, targeted approach will yield increased community awareness and services for veterans, individuals and families. Through education and support, participants receive services such as counseling and other long-term mental health care. For more resources and updates please visit: www.flmhlaw.com or www.namigo.org.
Mental Health Training Videos for Defense Work
Working with Mental Health Professionals
Forensic psychiatrists Dr. Ryan C. Wagoner, MD, and Dr. Isis Marrero, MD, from the USF Department of Psychiatry explain the nuts and bolts of forensic psychiatry and how you can help your mental health clients by supporting your mental health experts.
Investigation and Preparing for Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity Cases
Dr. Richard Martinez, MD, MH, Professor of Psychiatry and Law, discusses how to investigate and prepare for insanity defense cases.