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. 
December 2020

The Third Annual Judicial Summit on Mental Health was held virtually on November 9 and 10, 2020. Over 1500 judges and stakeholders attended from Texas and beyond. On behalf of the JCMH, I would like to thank everyone who attended and supported this record-breaking event. The Summit presentations and resources are now available on the JCMH Summit website.

As 2020 comes to a close and we look toward 2021, I want to share some key ideas to help you continue your work and implement new strategies and practices inspired by the Summit.

Top 10 Takeaways from the 2020 Judicial Summit on Mental Health

1.      Mental Health Courts and diversion practices come in a variety of forms and are needed across Texas for adults and juveniles. If your community would like to create a new docket or court, there are resources, blueprints, and mentors available.

2.    Communication Between the Disciplines is Essential. Breaking down the silos between organizations and professions creates a more efficient and successful system.

3.     Expansion of Juvenile Mental Health Care Access. Increased access to mental health care for children and youth creates an opportunity to intercept youth before they encounter the justice system. The Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium has a hotline for pediatricians to call for consultation on their juvenile mental health clients and has partnered with public school districts to deliver treatment to children via telemedicine.

4.    Individuals with IDD are over-represented in the criminal justice system and have distinct challenges, which require separate time, attention, and resources.

5.    IDD Resources Require Further Development. The relationships between Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authorities (LIDDAs) and courts are just beginning and are separate from courts’ relationships with Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHAs); the relationships between LIDDAs and Courts must be proactively cultivated.

6.    Competency Restoration is Not Mental Health Treatment. When possible, and especially for low-level offenses, consider alternatives such as diversion or dismissal with connections to services, as competency restoration in misdemeanor cases backlogs the system and further extends the waitlist length.

7.    Recognize Implicit Bias. Understanding and acknowledging individual implicit biases helps professionals proactively create a culture of fairness and equity.

8.    Lived Experience Perspectives are Invaluable in developing procedures that will increase positive outcomes and create a culture of de-escalation throughout the Sequential Intercept Model.

9.    Data is Our Friend. The collection and analysis of data helps us identify target populations, quantify existing resources, measure the efficacy of service delivery, and monitor progress. All counties are statutorily required to provide the Office of Court Administration with data regarding CCP § 16.22. The best time to start collecting data was yesterday; the next best time to start collecting data is now.

10.  Commit, Communicate, Collaborate. Take action. Nearly every speaker focused on the idea that change begins with a single individual, and that change doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective.

Texas Juvenile Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Law Bench Book

In conjunction with the Summit, the JCMH released the first edition of its Juvenile Bench Book. This edition follows the Sequential Intercept Model and covers Intercepts 0 through 3, Community Services through Courts. A limited number of print copies are now available. To request a copy of the Juvenile Bench Book, send an email to [email protected]The Juvenile Bench Book is also available in digital form on the JCMH website: http://jbenchbook.texasjcmh.gov/. Thank you to the many contributing authors and editors from across the state of Texas for creating this valuable resource!

Finally, 2020 was an unusual year that presented many new challenges. The JCMH is thankful for all the support and leadership that made our work possible. I wish you all a Happy New Year!

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