Circuit 13 Mental Health Summit and Mental Health Court Kickoff Event

On January 26th, Hillsborough County, Court Administration for the 13th Judicial Circuit, the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s Office, along with the Criminal Justice, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Technical Assistance Center (CJMHSA TAC) from USF’s Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) hosted the Circuit 13 Mental Health Summit and Mental Health Court Kickoff Event. The summit was held at the Hillsborough County Court House. Hillsborough County’s success in implementing other problem-solving courts provides high hopes for the new mental health court. The mental health court will begin by serving individuals charged with non-violent crimes and work up to serving individuals charged with offenses that are more serious.

In attendance at the event were criminal justice practitioners and stakeholders including judges, private attorneys, public defenders, state attorneys, community corrections, detention, law enforcement, specialty programs, substance abuse and mental health treatment providers, support services, and healthcare providers.  In fact, there was almost 100 percent participation from the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office.  Approximately 320 individuals attended the event with a waiting list that would have stretched the number to 400. 

The Summit’s opening plenary session included comments by Chief Judge Ficarrotta, County Commissioner Sandy Murman, Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt, and State Attorney Andrew Warren as well as a presentation by MHLP faculty member, Dr. Kathy Moore.  Dr. Moore’s presentation, “Therapeutic Courts, an Alternative Justice Model Emphasizing Treatment in lieu of Incarceration,” provided an overview of the central tenets of mental health courts.

MHLP faculty member, Dr. Randy Otto, held two sessions that captured the attention of state attorneys and public defenders. The first session focused on, “Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness with a Focus on Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” and the second session focused on, “From Civil to Criminal, Florida Law Addressing Persons with Behavioral Health Disorders.”

Dr. Roger Peters, also MHLP faculty, delivered a presentation geared toward mental health/substance abuse providers and practitioners, “Utilizing Risk Assessment and Evidence Based Interventions to Inform Service Delivery.”

There were two additional sessions:  (1) Panel of providers that included The Agency for Community and Treatment Services (ACTS), Gracepoint, Northside Mental Health Center, and Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office, Inc. (DACCO) ; and (2) a panel on Crisis Intervention Teams that included the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department, and the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network.