Mental Health Summit, Day 1 Takeaways

Today marked day 1 of TMCEC’s 2nd Mental Health Summit, and I was fortunate to attend as a participant. After the TMCEC’s first Mental Health Summit in 2016, it became clear the topic of mental health is an important concern for municipal judges in Texas, and it deserves attention at educational programs to highlight current issues and and raise awareness of services that are currently available throughout our state. In the past two years, we have seen big changes regarding mental health under new laws passed in the 85th Legislative Session. If you were not fortunate to attend this event this year, what follows is a list of important takeaways from today.

1. The Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health is Here

The Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health (JCMH) was created early this year by a joint order of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court. The purpose of the commission (according to its website) is “to develop, implement, and coordinate policy initiatives designed to improve the courts’ interaction with–and the administration of justice for–children, adults, and families with mental health needs.”

The JCMH was present and supportive of today’s training. Special thanks to Judge Barbara Hervey of the Court of Criminal Appeals for being here, as well as JCMH Executive Director Kristi Taylor and staff attorney Julie Liddell for participating!

Be on the lookout for a JCMH Mental Health Summit planned for October in Houston.

2. Every Texas Municipal Judge Should Be Familiar with Arts. 16.22 and 17.032 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

Every municipal judge in Texas is a magistrate, according to statute. A good overview of the assessment process for those arrested with a suspected mental illness or intellectual disability, can be viewed on the following flowchart created by OCA. I’ve included a large picture of it, but you can click on it for an even larger version, or find it on the OCA website here.

3. SIM Mapping Can Help Your Community Create Valuable Criminal Justice-Mental Health Partnerships

SIM stands for Sequential Intercept Model and it is a tool used to help transform fragmented systems, identify local resources and gaps, and help identify where to begin interventions. In 2016, the Fort Worth Municipal Court hosted a SIM Mapping Conference, in collaboration with TMCEC. The Fort Worth Municipal Court along with Tarrant County Commissioners Court brought together 75 individuals representing the judiciary, law enforcement, social service agencies as well as local and county government. The result of the conference was a working document that identified gaps in current services and highlighted areas for future refinement. With the document, the stakeholders could begin to make change. A year later, the stakeholders reconvened to review the map, assess the improvements that had been made, and plan for the future.This collaborative process could be used by more areas to help improve mental health processes. For more information on SIM workshops, click here.

4. Mental Health Disorders are Identified Using Signs and Symptoms, and Those are Different Things

I had never heard the information given today by Dr. Randy Price, but I found it valuable and interesting.

A sign is objective evidence of a disease or disorder. It is something anyone can potentially observe.

A symptom is subjective recognition of something being wrong by the person–something only the person can tell us about.

So, the key difference between signs and symptoms is the identifier. Signs are observed by some other party. Symptoms are self-recognized.

5. Trauma-Informed Communication May Lead to More Successful Interaction and Outcomes

Erin Holmes of Responsibility.org was a wonderful speaker, and I especially like this graphic she used regarding trauma-informed communication. To me, it is very reminiscent of ideas we’ve covered in Procedural Justice. For more information on trauma-informed judicial practice, click here.

6. There is a List of Local Mental Health Authorities

If, as a Texas municipal court professional, you’ve ever wondered where mental health authorities are near you, this information will prove particularly useful. The Texas Department of State Health Services maintains a list of local mental health authorities, and there is even a search form. To find out more, click here.

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