DAILY / MAY 14, 2016  
Psychiatric News Update

Stronger Bridge Needed Between Judiciary, MH Systems for Youth

Sarah Vinson, M.D.
An event was held today at Morehouse School of Medicine in conjunction with APA’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Atlanta that brought together community members, mental health professionals, and state and local judiciary leaders to discuss youth, the criminal justice system, and mental health services.

“There are people with serious mental illness who are admitted to jails yearly,” said APA President Renée Binder, M.D., in her opening remarks. “People with serious mental illness do not belong in jail, and we must do something about it.”

The purpose of the event was to identify ways to help youth at the interface of the criminal justice system who are in need of mental health services. One of the key points was strengthening the bridge between the judiciary system and mental health services.

“We have relied on the jails and juvenile detention to provide mental health services to some of our youth,” said Peggy Walker, a Juvenile Court judge in Douglas County, located just west of Atlanta. “The problem is that if we incarcerate people with mental illness, they run the risk of deteriorating. That is not the best way to approach youth with mental illness,” she said in an interview. “What we really need is adequate community mental health services and intensive case management with mental health and criminal justice professionals in the community to address some of the issues in the community.”

Sarah Vinson, M.D. (at right in photo), an assistant professor of psychiatry at Morehouse School of Medicine and a coordinator of the event, agreed. “The reality is that our patients’ lives are often touched by the criminal justice system. We do them a disservice by not collaborating with leaders and employees of the judiciary system when we do not understand how the system works.”

Also during the session, members of the community, mostly parents, were able to share their experiences with both the criminal justice and mental health systems and receive feedback from the experts on the panel.

“I hope that participants were inspired to act,” said Glenda Wrenn, M.D. (at left in photo), director of the Division of Behavioral Health at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and coordinator of the event, in an interview. “A lot of networking happened today, and I hope that the participants will act and build on the new relationships and the information that was presented today.”

(Image: Vabren Watts)




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