Jurist in Residence Letter

From Senior District Judge John J. Specia, Jr. (Ret.)

This resource letter of the Jurist in Residence (JIR) program is designed to facilitate communication among the JCMH, the judiciary, and mental health stakeholders. Please forward this letter to any judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, law enforcement, or other community and state leaders who might be interested. To ensure that you regularly receive this letter, please click on the subscribe button at the bottom of this page, if you have not already. 

Start a Behavioral Health Leadership Team

JCMH is providing technical assistance to more communities across the state and we are impressed by the local Behavioral Health Leadership Teams with whom we have become acquainted. Although each is unique, these teams are formalized cross-agency stakeholder groups that typically serve their communities by fostering collaboration among the members and leveraging collective effort and resources to improve the service delivery system. The Texoma Behavioral Health Leadership Team in Grayson County provides mental health awareness and works to improve the well-being of all in the community. The Hidalgo County Mental Health Coalition promotes the de-stigmatization of mental health and maintains a local mental health resource guide.


Judges can convene meetings and bring people together, so they are natural leaders for this type of initiative. I encourage you to get involved with your local Behavioral Health Leadership Team, or to take the first steps in creating such a team by reviewing this checklist from the National Center for State Courts.


Launch of Mental Health Law Training Events

I’m pleased to announce that in July, JCMH conducted its first mental health law training event. The inaugural training consisted of a three-hour session for legal professionals and other stakeholders in Liberty County, Texas. Participants learned about jail screenings for mental illness and IDD, best practices for competency restoration, and effective diversion strategies; and also had the opportunity to ask questions and network.


This training is JCMH’s latest technical assistance offering. You can learn more about all of our technical assistance capabilities here.


Children’s Mental Health Roundtable Report

Together with the Children’s Commission, the JCMH held a roundtable event in June to identify strategies to collaborate and support children’s mental health. This event was born out of concerns for increasing numbers of children who are without placement in the child welfare system or who are committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department due to unmet complex mental health needs. Invited guests included young adults and parents with lived experience, judges hearing both juvenile and child welfare cases, attorneys, service providers, advocates, and leaders from state agencies such as the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD).


Participants discussed gaps in the systems that serve children and youth, current initiatives to fill those gaps, and recommendations for short- and long-term solutions. Thank you to the many stakeholders who made time to attend this important event. This discussion was an important first step and the JCMH and the Children’s Commission look forward to continuing to partner with experts around the state to implement the recommendations included in the final report.


Virtual Summit Registration

There is still time for you to register to virtually attend our 5th Annual Judicial Summit on Mental Health. This year’s Summit features a focus on Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Courts, a Mental Health Court “Stump the Experts” Q&A session, and an entire day devoted to children’s mental health topics. Registration and other information can be found here.


John J. Specia, Jr. (Ret.)
Jurist in Residence
To receive the JIR Resource Letter and other special announcements, link below:
Judicial Commission on Mental Health | TexasJCMH.gov