For Immediate Release - March 24, 2015

Trial Court Receives Training Grant to Improve Delivery of Drug and Mental Health Services in Franklin County

BOSTON, MA -- The Massachusetts Trial Court, in partnership with the Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health, has received a training grant that will help improve the coordination of drug and mental health services and their delivery to residents in Franklin County.

The training, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s GAINS Center, will enable the court system and community organizations to identify available services and solutions that help individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues who are at various stages of involvement with the criminal justice system.  

The one-day Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) workshop will enable local, multi-disciplinary teams to collaborate, identify, and discuss ways to reduce barriers between the criminal justice system and mental health and substance abuse providers, and to develop integrated plans. Franklin County officials and service providers will use the Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) training to develop unified strategies to allow them to identify and respond to the needs of adults with behavioral health disorders in the community. The development of cross-agency collaboration is a key step toward creating an integrated community-based system that would detect mental health and substance use disorders early, before people enter the criminal justice system.

“The dedicated professionals who serve Franklin County – law enforcement, court staff, healthcare providers, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers, and human services organizations – are truly committed to working together to find solutions,” said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey. “This grant recognizes the increased collaboration within the criminal justice system and with other government agencies, and the willingness to learn evidence-based solutions proven to strengthen our communities.”

The Franklin County Opioid Task Force, co-chaired by Probate and Family Court Register John Merrigan, is now identifying organizations to participate in the training. “The training represents a tremendous opportunity for this area and we want to maximize the value by engaging more partners,” Register Merrigan said. The Task Force, which organized submission of the grant in collaboration with the Trial Court, plans to conduct the one-day training by September. Trainers from Policy Research Associates, which operates the SAMHSA GAINS Center, will provide attendees with the mapping tools needed to improve service delivery.

Training on SIM will provide the community with skills to diagram the criminal justice system into five intercepts or points where and when people with mental health and substance abuse issues come into contact with the system. At each intercept, services and resources are identified that may divert the person from further involvement in the criminal justice system. The Trial Court has worked with its state agency partners to introduce SIM-based mapping across the state to support the expansion of specialty courts. The Department of Mental Health has helped support courts in Quincy, Springfield, and Plymouth to conduct similar mapping exercises.

“The SAMSHA grant will enable the court and the Franklin County community to identify critical points that the SIM process calls ‘intercepts,’” said Debra Pinals, M.D., Assistant Commissioner of Forensic Mental Health Services at the Department of Mental Health. “SIM gives us a powerful tool to assess and strategize ways to provide people with the treatment and support they need to be healthy and productive members of the community and stop cycling in and out of the system.”

“This initiative will bring key community stakeholders together to identify critical gaps in services, places where changes in systems and practice are necessary, and identify which strengths we can build upon to better serve people with mental health and substance use disorders in Franklin County,” said Karen Pressman, Director of Planning and Development for the Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.

Franklin County, which spans 725 miles, has struggled to meet the mental health and substance abuse needs of its residents and address growing opiate and heroin addiction.
The population at the Franklin County House of Corrections and in the Transition from Jail to Community program demonstrates the link between mental health and substance abuse disorders in the community and the local criminal justice system. The statistics also highlight the displacement of individuals with mental health and substance use disorders now relegated to the criminal justice system instead of being diverted into treatment:

  • 81% of inmates at the Franklin County House of Corrections are in clinical treatment for mental health issues.
  • Approximately 70% of inmates have experienced multiple traumas, often beginning in childhood. Research shows that people with multiple traumas are at increased risk of both mental health and substance use disorders.
  • 84% of inmates have a substance abuse problem that puts them at high or very high risk of being re-incarcerated within one year of release.
  • 60% of participants in the Transition from Jail to Community program have both mental health and substance use disorder diagnoses.

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