Mark Goodner sat down with Regan Metteauer to discuss TMCEC’s upcoming Mental Health Conference
MG: Regan, the Mental Health Conference is quickly approaching. If I’m not mistaken, this will be our fourth Mental Health Conference—they began in 2016 and we have had them every two years. For those that have never been, can you tell us a little bit about the conference and why someone may want to attend?
RM: That’s correct, Mark. The inaugural conference in 2016 was born out of collaboration. Because it was the first conference of its kind for TMCEC and because of the importance of the topic, we reached out to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) for guidance on the landscape of mental health in Texas and the United States. Patti Tobias, a state court liaison from NCSC, suggested we convene individuals from each point in the criminal justice system (law enforcement, behavioral health, jail, court, etc.) to help us plan our first agenda. That first planning meeting taught us the importance of gathering together, sharing information and perspectives, and making connections. And that really is what the conference is all about. It’s not a matter of if mental health will have an impact on a municipal court, it’s when. One in five adults in the U.S. have a mental illness. Our courts see the greatest number of defendants compared to other Texas courts. Because of the sheer volume and subject matter jurisdiction (e.g, disorderly conduct, public intoxication—which can be manifestations of mental illness) of cases filed in municipal court, attendees will be able to apply what they learn at this conference on a regular basis.
MG: This will take place at the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel on August 18-19. I should also mention that this conference is open to municipal judges, magistrates, clerks, court administrators, and prosecutors. Am I leaving anyone out?
RM: Juvenile case managers are welcome, too. We will have a session on the second day focusing on children and schools. There will be something for every attendee on the agenda. Mental health affects various aspects of a case beginning at magistration all the way through disposition. At each point in a case, there are things we can do to improve the court’s response to mental illness. Not only that, mental health affects judges and court staff personally or vicariously. We have a session on mental health and well-being for judges and court personnel that I hope all attendees benefit from hearing.
MG: I have always been impressed with this program, and we often get to see new topics and different faculty than are at many of other programs. Is there any topic or speaker that you are especially interested in seeing this year?
RM: I’m so excited about this year’s agenda. It would be difficult to choose one topic or speaker because I can’t wait to see all of them. I do want to mention a couple of new sessions TMCEC has never offered before. The first is Community Response: Suicide Awareness and Prevention. This is a topic that is crucial to talk about but sometimes avoided. It will be applicable to all attendees as community members. The second is a session on peer support. Due to the growing evidence around the practice over the past decades, peer support is now considered an evidence-based practice. Though the concept has been around since the 1970’s, our courts may have never heard of it. Last month, the National Judicial Taskforce to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness, with funding from the State Justice Institute, released a paper on peers in courts, which will be addressed in this presentation. I’m eager for our courts to learn more about peer support.
MG: Thanks for the information, Regan. Those interested can see the agenda here. If anyone is interested in registering, that can be done here: https://register.tmcec.com. The Mental Health Conference registration fee is $50 which includes up to two nights’ hotel stay (for eligible participants). Participants can obtain 12 hours of judicial education or clerk certification credit. CLE up to 10.5 hours is offered to attorneys ($100 CLE reporting fee).