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Samhsa's Gains Center for Behaviorial Health and Justice Transformation

Samhsa's Gains Center for Juvenile Health and Justice Transformation | JDTR | ATCC | MHTG | ADULT MHCS | JUVENILE MHCS | TOPICAL RESOURCES | PEER RESOURCES | TRAUMA TRAINING

March 2014


• The Case for a Facility Dog Program from the Summit County, OH Prosecutorís Office

• Notes from the Field: Brad Price on Peer Staff in Drug Courts

• Operation Recovery: Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery Program – Mecklenburg County, NC

• Evidence-Based Practices for Justice-Involved Persons – A Five-Part Webinar Series

• New Whitepaper about Mental Health and Juvenile Justice


How do you incorporate recovery-oriented principles in therapeutic services/environments?


Academic & Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health
March 20-21, 2014
Houston, TX

NCCHC Spring Conference on Correctional Health Care
April 5-8, 2014
Atlanta, GA

American Jail Associationís Annual Conference & Jail Expo
April 27-30, 2014
Dallas, TX

American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting
May 3-7, 2014
New York, NY

National Council for Behavioral Health Annual Conference
May 5-7, 2014
Washington, DC

National Association of Drug Court Professionals Training Conference
May 28-31, 2014
Anaheim, CA


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The Case for a Facility Dog Program from the Summit County, OH Prosecutorís Office

At the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) Victims Committee meeting in November 2011, I attended a fascinating presentation by Courthouse Dogs on the use of facility dogs in the courtroom. I had never heard of using a dog to calm victims and witnesses. As I listened to the presentation, I thought about how having a facility dog in my office would improve not only the experience of victims and witnesses, but our success in trials as well. We decided to apply for our own facility dog.

While the application was pending, we researched case law to guide our facility dog program and determine the level of support for the use of dogs in the courtroom. I learned that courthouse dogs are used around the country to support victims of crime both in and out of court. These specially-trained dogs assist witnesses who may be frightened or nervous about talking about the crime or testifying in court. According to the Courthouse Dogs Foundationís website, there are 49 courthouse dogs in 21 states. In some states, county or district prosecutorís offices use these courthouse dogs to provide emotional support to victims and witnesses.
  Facility Dog Program

In Summit County, the judges have reacted favorably to our facility dog program thus far. We anticipate adding Ohio to the growing number of states that support the use of facility dogs in the courtroom. Canine Companions for Independence provided us with our facility dog, Avery, free of charge in mid-August. Since joining our staff, Avery has met with numerous adults and children. All of them say how much better they feel when Avery puts his head on their lap or curls up on an oversized chair with them. They even excitedly ask when they can come back to see Avery.

Averyís first trial was in January against a defendant accused of violently raping two young girls. The girls, now seven and 10, are terrified of this man. They were somber and scared as they sat in our reception area prior to their first meeting with the prosecutors assigned to the case. The prosecutors brought Avery into the reception area to see the girls, who were immediately excited to meet the dog they had seen on the news.

The girls played with Avery while the prosecutors discussed the case with their guardian. The prosecutors believe that the girls warmed up quickly because of Avery. At that meeting and every meeting thereafter, the girls always asked if Avery would be able to sit with them while they faced their rapist. Although they were visibly distraught with the mere idea of sitting in the same room as that man, they seemed calmer knowing Avery would be with them. Avery sat at the girlsí feet as they testified. Although clearly nervous and upset, the girls were able to truthfully and convincingly explain what happened to them and respond to questions. Were it not for Avery, the prosecutors say they would have had serious concerns about the girls being able to testify.

On a more personal note, Avery has had an unintended but positive impact on my employees. No matter how much you try, sometimes you canít help but take to heart the injustice we see on a daily basis. Witnessing firsthand the violence and cruelty humans are capable of inflicting on one another eventually takes an emotional toll. When child victims play with Avery, they are able to momentarily escape their trauma. Seeing children who have been through indescribable experiences smiling and laughing and acting like normal kids, when they were shaking and unable to meet your eyes just moments before, makes it a little easier to keep dealing with the horrible things we see every day.

Whether providing support to victims in prosecutor meetings or during trial, I believe a facility dog can help to reduce secondary victimization and improve case outcomes. I expect to continue to see positive results from our facility dog program, especially as Averyís presence in the courtroom becomes more routine than novelty.

Sherri Bevan Walsh
Summit County Prosecuting Attorney

Notes from the Field: Brad Price on Peer Staff in Drug Courts

The GAINS Center interviewed C. Brad Price, program director of the Tennessee 31st Judicial District ATCC/DWI/Drug Court Program on his thoughts and advice on the role of peers in drug courts. The 31st Judicial District ATCC/DWI/Drug Court Program is designed to promote self-sufficiency and personal responsibility through treatment and education. The program serves as an alternative to incarceration and traditional prosecution to offenders with substance abuse and mental health issues.   Brad Price  

GAINS: What changes has the 31st District of TN drug court made regarding involving peer staff?

Brad Price: We have included our peer case manager as part of the drug court team. This has allowed our team to be able to get a different perspective from a previous participant and graduate of the drug court program. This enables the team to better assist current drug court participants in their recovery.

GAINS: What is the value of including peer staff in a drug court setting?

Brad Price: Involving peer staff allows us to think outside the box. Having a peer case manager with lived experience assists the team in developing the best treatment program for individual participants.

GAINS: What are some of the challenges of including peers?

Brad Price: It can be a challenge getting team members to accept the opinions of peer case managers. Peer case managers have to earn the trust of the drug court team staff. It is important for them to remain neutral and not get too involved with drug court participants. They have to be able to show empathy but not sympathy for the participants.

GAINS: What advice would you give to other drug courts looking to include peer staff?

Brad Price: Start the peer staff out slowly. Do not overload them with a lot of responsibility. The drug court staff have to remember to have ongoing training with peer staff to ensure their success.

GAINS: How has your view of recovery and peer support changed over time?

Brad Price: My view of recovery has not changed much. I have always believed a person should be given a second chance. I think recovery is a process which requires patience and consistency. With that being said, I also believe there is a time when a person has to accept responsibility for his/her own actions and learn to use the tools he/she has been given to succeed in life. I believe individuals in recovery need to have someone to guide them through the process. Peer case managers and other peer support staff have proven to be just the people to fill this guiding role.

Thank you for your insightful remarks, Brad!

Operation Recovery: Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery Program – Mecklenburg County, NC

Sean Fucci, USAF Veteran – Veteran Services Specialist

Operation Recovery is a program that assists individuals who are involved with the criminal justice system who have served in the military (including the National Guard and Reserves), have experienced trauma, and are managing a mental illness or substance abuse issue. The program is funded wholly or in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration through their Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery initiative as a project of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities & Substance Abuse Services.
  Sean Fucci - USAF Veteran

As the Veteran Services Specialist, I am the first contact for the veterans referred to our program. I meet with them and screen for exposure to trauma, substance abuse, or other mental illness; answer questions and provide information regarding Veterans benefits; assist in obtaining DD-214 or other military service records; and assist in applying for potential veterans benefits, including VA healthcare. I also provide peer support and conduct outreach at the jails and in the community to identify veterans who may benefit from Operation Recovery.

When I meet fellow veterans they are often on guard and wary of who I am, but once I identify myself as a veteran their guard comes down a little and they are willing to begin talking and opening up. Many tell me how happy they are to see another veteran and that their service matters to someone. I work in partnership with our Trauma Specialist who establishes great relationships with the veterans we serve. Sometimes the veterans will reach out or respond to me initially, or along the way. Also, sometimes our Trauma Specialist will ask me to reach out Ė that is important because it again shows the importance of a vet-to-vet contact in building and/or maintaining that relationship and trust with others who are working to help.

We have a great relationship with our county jail. Recently we have had additional discussions about the low number of identified veterans in the jail and why that might be happening. We talked about why some may not have been identified and the benefit of a veteran being the person reaching out and asking the question. We have been given permission to access the housing units within the jail and do outreach to identify all veterans and explain what our program does. The first day of outreach, we went through 1/3 of the units at the main jail and identified 14 veterans who had not previously been identified.

The conversation about peers and their invaluable impact has been progressing around the state and here in our county. We are working on developing more peer programs and access in the community. We are working with the American Red Cross regarding the possibility of establishing a peer mentor program under their Service to the Armed Forces program. We are fortunate to have some of our graduates come and speak to our law enforcement at CIT trainings about their experience with Operation Recovery and their changed path and hope. We receive a lot of positive feedback from officers regarding the change they see in these individuals.

I continuously reach out to community organizations to educate them on our program and the importance of peers. We are working to establish contacts that will facilitate an easier process for veterans navigating the system. In addition, we have partnered with other organizations to offer trauma-informed training and to ensure the veteran perspective is represented. The goal is to grow and maintain a network that can work together to serve veterans in an educated and informed way.

Mecklenburg County is in the early stages of planning for a possible community crisis center. Both peers and veterans specifically have been included in the conversation about who needs to be present at this location. I also believe that our program continuously ensures that the importance of veterans and veteran peers are included in planning, implementation, and continued development of community programs. I continue to see an increase in conversation and implementation around the inclusion of veteran peers in program planning, outreach, and care.

Evidence-Based Practices for Justice-Involved Persons – A Five-Part Webinar Series

The GAINS Center Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) webinar series features cutting edge updates by leading researchers on the current empirical research on five key EBPs for justice-involved persons with behavioral health disorders. Complementing each researcher are nationally-recognized practitioners who are putting these EBPs to use in the field every day.

What works?  What adaptations are needed?  How do these EBPs work in various real world settings?

Find out all of this and more in this five-part webinar series! Each webinar will be followed by one or more interactive “Ask the Expert” discussion groups, allowing participants a rare chance to pick the brains of leaders in the field.

Topic Presenters Date/Time
"Illness Management and Recovery" Discussion Groups Dr. Kim Mueser of the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University and Susan Gingerich of the Illness Management and Recovery Program March 20, April 3, and April 4 Registration
"Integrating Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services for Justice-Involved Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders" Dr. Fred Osher of the Council of State Governments Justice Center April 8, 2014 1:00 pm ET
"Reducing Criminal Recidivism for Justice-Involved Persons with Mental Illness: Risk/Needs/Responsivity & Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions" Dr. Merrill Rotter of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and NYC TASC and Eric Olson of the Bonneville County, ID Mental Health Court May 12, 2014 1:00 pm ET

Previous webinar and discussion group topics were: “Forensic Assertive Community Treatment: Updating the Evidence,” “Supported Employment for Justice-Involved People with Mental Illness,” and “Illness Management and Recovery.” For archived webinars and discussion groups and participation information for upcoming webinars and discussion groups, please visit the GAINS Center website.

New Whitepaper about Mental Health and Juvenile Justice

Did you know that 65 to 75 percent of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder? But, the juvenile justice system is not always the best or most appropriate place for them to access the services they need.

Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System” is a new white paper, released by the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change: A Training, Technical Assistance and Education Center. The recently launched Resource Center provides information and training tools for juvenile justice and mental health system administrators, policy makers, program providers, and direct care staff. To learn more about mental health challenges in the juvenile justice system, scientific breakthroughs that can help, and how to encourage adoption of better solutions for youth with mental health needs, check out the new white paper today!

SAMHSA's GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Disclaimer: SAMHSA's GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation develops and distributes E-News with support from SAMHSA. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of SAMHSA.

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