Jurist in Residence Letter

From Judge Brent Carr (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. 

2023 Annual Judicial Summit on Mental Health

The 6th Annual Judicial Summit on Mental Health was held on October 16-28, 2023. Over 1,200 judges and stakeholders attended in person and online. Our registrants were from more than 140 Texas counties, 12 states, and two countries. All Summit videos and resources are now uploaded to the JCMH website. On behalf of the JCMH, I would like to thank everyone who attended and supported this hybrid event. 

Please save the date for the 7th Annual Judicial Summit on Mental Health, November 21-22, 2024, at Marriott Dallas Allen Hotel & Convention Center in Allen, Texas.  

Top 10 Learning Points from the 2023 Summit

As we begin 2024, I would like to share some key ideas to help you continue your work and implement new strategies and practices inspired by the Summit.

1)      Anosognosia—unawareness of one’s mental health disorder—affects about 50 percent of people with serious mental illness. The LEAP method by Dr. Xavier Amador gives you the tools to persuade someone “in denial” about their mental illness to accept treatment and services.

2)    Relationships matter. “We will never win on the strength of our argument; we win on the strength of our relationship,” stated Dr. Amador.

3)     We must consider individuals individually. “Cookie-cutter justice is no justice at all.” Judge Stephanie Sawyer developed a Resource-Based Sentencing & Supervision Program for courts where she uses technology to divert appropriate individuals while ensuring public safety.

4)    Now is the time for a special focus on youth. Judge Cyndi Porter Gore highlighted her specialized juvenile municipal court docket and an earlier session with Judges David Newell and Ryan Turner laid out new youth grant and diversion opportunities that are available with recent legislation.

5)    Mental Health Jail Diversion Centers divert appropriate individuals away from the criminal justice system. These centers are being built around the state, including urban and rural counties. Find a model that inspires your county.

6)    Save competency restoration services for cases where the State has a compelling interest to prosecute. HHSC’s new Texas Competency Restoration Guide recommends that communities collaborate to understand its definition of compelling interest to prosecute. Variables to consider include the nature of the offense and aggravation factors, circumstances of the offense, concerns and safety of the alleged victims and community, availability of inpatient competency restoration, and wait time to receive competency restoration in the context of the maximum sentencing term provided by law for the alleged offense.

7)    Counties can create a Mental Health Law Plan to coordinate their use the most appropriate, efficient, and cost-savings responses to people with serious mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities. JCMH has a checklist and technical assistance to help.

8)    Grant-writing skills help to successfully secure funding. There are resources to improve your grant-writing skills and a Toolkit for Applying for a Grant to Start or Expand a Specialty Court.

9)    Do your part to prevent people with IDD from being overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Make sure you seek resources to know how to best interact with people with IDD.

10) Use evidence-based practices for self-care. Professionals in this field are particularly susceptible to depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. Ask for help when you need it. 



The Summit offered many expert panel discussions and breakout sessions with experts and practitioners sharing suggestions and tools. It also addressed strategies for early identification of mental health issues, innovative approaches to reduce reliance on the competency restoration system, and novel ways for county leaders to ensure that every effort is made to accomplish their goals by delving into the best practices in the adult and youth-serving systems. The diverse array of speakers contributed a wealth of new resources (available on the JMCH website) and recordings of each session are available in the JCMH Video Library. Thank you to the many stakeholders who made time to attend this important event.


January 26th Commission Meeting

The January 25th, 2024 Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health Meeting will take place from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. A link to a livestream of the meeting on our YouTube channel will be available on our website. At the meeting we will welcome new Commissioners and provide updates on Commission projects and the budget. Future Commission meetings are tentatively scheduled for April 12 and November 20, 2024.


Brent Carr (Ret.)

Jurist in Residence

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