Minnesota’s FACT Team Aims to Keep Mentally Ill Out of Jail
An individual experiencing a mental health crisis runs the risk of ending up in jail. It's become a cliché that county jails have become the largest mental health facilities in some states. However, jails aren't equipped to handle the needs of people with mental illness, and often an individual leaves jail in a worse condition than when they entered. Now some states are looking for alternative solutions to putting the mentally ill in jail. In Minnesota, FACT teams are working toward that goal.


Minnesota is turning to Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) teams to help alleviate the problem of mentally ill individuals in the criminal justice system. FACT teams are based on ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) teams, which were created in the 1970s in the wake of privatization of psychiatric hospitals. The goal of the ACT team was to keep people in the community and away from hospitals. ACT teams met with individuals where they lived and helped provide them with therapeutic and medical resources to assist them with their mental illness.

Similarly, FACT teams aim to provide individuals with resources in the community so that they can avoid time in jail. FACT teams ensure that people receive the treatment they need to cope with their illness and function in the community. Members of FACT teams are trained to interact with individuals with mental illness and help provide them with the help they need. Regular meetings are scheduled, and members of FACT teams meet with individuals where they live, making meetings more convenient and accessible. Caseworkers work with the individuals on vocational skills and techniques for coping with the daily stressors of life. They also try to help people stay out of trouble with the law.

Many individuals who work with FACT teams are on probation. FACT teams work closely with local probation departments to ensure that probation officers are aware of the unique challenges individuals with mental illness face. This could prevent an individual from being cited for a probation violation if the alleged violation was a result of their mental illness. The hope is that many people choose to stay with the program even when their probation is complete so that they can receive further resources.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.
Elizabeth Kelley
Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a nationwide practice specializing in representing people with mental disabilities. She is the co-chair of The Arc's National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability, serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, Criminal Justice Section Council, and Editorial Board of the Criminal Justice Magazine Learn more .
Further Reading
Opinion:  Mental illness was my family’s secret — and America’s great shame
In 2011, I began a professional and personal journey to understand my profession’s abandonment of our sickest patients. I had been trained as a psychiatrist at an Ivy League medical center on the East Coast. Like most of my colleagues in my generation, I did not end up treating those with schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder. Also, like many people in my field, I had a personal connection to the disease that I kept to myself.
When New Yorkers Report A Mental Health Crisis, Who Should Respond?
When Christina Sparrock skipped multiple sessions with her psychiatrist earlier this year, her doctor became alarmed and called a mobile crisis team to visit her apartment. The two mental health practitioners who arrived (the teams are usually staffed by social workers) quickly set about assessing her well-being. "They were examining my apartment, my appearance, asking whether I took medication, how I was resting, what’s your support system, when’s your next doctor’s appointment," recalls Sparrock, an accountant and tireless mental health advocate who says she usually has her bipolar disorder under control. "They wanted to see how I was functioning."
First response to mental health crisis should be compassion, not cops
I never imagined dialing 911 would result in my son being  shot to death in front of our home .  I just needed some help working with him as his mental health had worsened.

I regret that call everyday. I cannot go back and change what happened. But I can demand that we radically restructure how we respond to mental health crises. We can do better.
He was a nurse before mental illness set in. In jail, without medicine, voices came back
Bookhaven man's time in jail example of Mississippi's failure to adequately care for those suffering with mental illness, critics say.
We need to stop treating mentally ill people like criminals
At a time when homelessness in California has reached a point of crisis, criminal justice leaders need to finally address the way we treat the mentally ill and how our institutions respond to incidents of mental health crisis.
Simon Baron-Cohen: ‘Neurodiversity is the next frontier. But we’re failing autistic people’
As a graduate in the 1980s, Simon Baron‑Cohen taught autistic children at a special school in London. Little was known about autism then, and people often misheard him, assuming he taught "artistic children".
Books & Videos
FREE E-Book! Families' Guide to Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When your family member with a mental disability has been arrested or charged with a crime, it can be a confusing and challenging experience that leaves you unsure of where to turn for answers. Here are some key things families can do to help the defense attorney handling their case.
Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Best Practices Manual

Elizabeth’s book, Representing People with Mental Disabilities was published by the American Bar Association a little over a year ago. The response to the book has been overwhelming with many attorneys and activists happy to have such a resource. It has also resulted in many interviews and speaking invitations. Topics include Competency, Sanity, Neuroimaging, False Confessions, and Prison Conditions.