Jun 11, 2014

Michigan Drug Court featured on NBC’s Dateline

Last Sunday, NBC’s Dateline featured Michigan’s Mercer County Drug Courts. The piece followed three individuals whose addictions brought them in front of Adult and Juvenile Drug Court Judge Mary Chrzanowski, known as "Scary Mary."

In an email statement, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals said of the program:

"While the story is a profile of just one of over 2,800 Drug Courts in the United States, it underscores two important issues critical to the public’s understanding of all Drug Courts. First, the individuals profiled in the piece, no matter their original charge, were given the option of Drug Court because they were assessed and shown to meet the clinical criteria for drug-dependence. Once they were admitted, the Drug Court team worked tirelessly to keep them in the program and deal with relapse and other issues that arose along the way."

Click here to view clips of the Dateline episode.

May 29, 2014

BHC featured in Mother Jones

Mother Jones published an article and video yesterday featuring the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court. The article – "Can Mental Health Courts Fix California's Prison Overcrowding?" – discusses how California's Three Strikes Law has "inadvertently resulted in the incarceration of a lot relatively harmless people, for a long time and at great public expense."

The statistics are staggering. Mentally ill inmates make up 45% of California's prison population. Mentally ill offenders also receive longer sentences than their non-mentally ill counterparts across all felonies.

"Once in prison, [mentally ill inmates'] illnesses go untreated, and the prison conditions exacerbate their behavioral symptoms. As a result, they are at greater risk of getting in trouble for breaking prison rules and being sanctioned with severe disciplinary measures, including solitary confinement—a vicious cycle that can make their symptoms even worse, getting them in even more trouble."

Citing their effectiveness and cost-savings, State Senator Darrell Steinberg and professors from Stanford Law School's Three Strikes project are calling for more investment in mental health courts. There are currently 40 mental health courts across 27 counties in California, including the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court.

The video was directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Kattie Galloway of Loteria Films.

May 28, 2014

SF kicks off Prevention & Family Recovery initiative

“The Court understands the impact of intergenerational poverty and drug addiction on the children served by Dependency Drug Court. This initiative will help the Court strengthen its partnerships and provide targeted services to nurture parent-child relationships and family stability.”
 Presiding Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee 

San Francisco was selected as one of four sites to receive a Doris Duke Foundation Prevention and Family Recovery (PFR) grant to enhance services for families participating in Dependency Drug Court (DDC). Representatives from San Francisco's multidisciplinary team attended the PFR Leadership Development kick-off meeting this month in Newport Beach, CA. 

L-R: Eden Woldemariam (Homeless Prenatal Program), Katie Best (HealthRIGHT 360), Sylvia Deporto (Human Services Agency), Lynn Dolce (Department of Public Health), Jennifer Pasinosky (Superior Court), Dora Miranda (Superior Court), Miriam Silverman (Infant Parent Program), Jill Gresham (Children & Family Futures), Hon. Linda Colfax (Superior Court), Theresa Lemus (Children and Family Futures) Not pictured: Kimberlee Pitters (Department of Public Health)

The PFR initiative is overseen by Children and Family Futures, a nonprofit leader in the field of Family Drug Courts. Through this grant, DDC will provide evidence-based in-home parenting education to all participating families with children 0-5 years old and implement a “One Family, One Plan” strategy to ensure parent, child, and family services are integrated and highly coordinated across systems.

DDC's efforts will build upon the Interagency Service Collaborative (iASC), San Francisco's response to the Katie A. settlement agreement in California, requiring county governments to "improve the provision of mental health and supportive services for children and youth in, or at imminent risk of placement in, foster care in California."

The PFR grant also includes intensive technical assistance and program evaluation to support systemic change, identify best practices, and disseminate findings to other Family Drug Courts across the country. The other three sites were Robeson County, NC, Tompkins County, NY, and Pima County, AZ.

DDC's partners are excited for the opportunity to provide enhanced parenting services and implement systemic changes that help strengthen families and support long-term success. The project implementation date is July 1, 2014.

Click here to view the Superior Court’s press release.

Mar 16, 2014

New York Times essays tackle the issue of addiction and treatment

On February 10, 2014, The New York Times' Room for Debate series tackled the important and complex issue of addiction and treatment. These essays provide a well-rounded look at the causes of addiction, and more importantly, what can be done to break the cycle. As Boston College's Gene Heyman wrote, "What research shows is that those we label addicts have the capacity to take control of their lives. It is time to reformulate drug policy and addiction interventions on the basis of this well-established finding."

It Is a Disease and Needs to Be Treated as Such
David Sack, Psychiatrist
"Research has shown that it has the properties of other medical disorders, including genetic links and a susceptibility to medication."

As With Other Problems, Class Has a Role
Carl L. Hart, Columbia University
"Crack became popular in poor areas because there were few 'competing reinforcers,' other affordable sources of pleasure and purpose."

A Spiritual Understanding Is Needed
Lisa Miller, Spirituality Mind Body Institute, Columbia University
"A personal relationship with a higher power is the most powerful protection against the "mystic consciousness'' of substance abuse."

A Matter of Difficult Choices
Gene Heyman, Boston College
"Most addicts keep using until penalties of excessive use become overwhelming. Research shows that addicts can take control of their lives."


Bad Habits Can Be Learned and Unlearned
Marc Lewis, Author, "Memoirs of an Addicted Brain"
"Addiction involves the pursuit of attractive goals. It is hardly abnormal. It involves brain changes because that's how learning works."

No Quick Fix or Simple Approach Will Do
Peg O'Connor, Gustavus Adolphus College
"Doctors tell pre-diabetic patients to make healthy choices, but those can be beyond the control of many people."