Did you know our country’s largest population of seriously mentally ill people is in our jails and prisons? Clearly not a good thing for them. They deserve better, but our society has not learned how to handle them. And this is true all across our country.
This Thursday and Friday, I will be traveling to Miami-Dade County to take a tour of the Miami-Dade Criminal Mental Health Project. I will be accompanied by representatives from other states who want to replicate this program in their county. I am here because the project is interested in becoming part of the Grand Challenge to eliminate the stigma around mental health and substance use disorders nationally.
I look forward to meeting Judge Steve Leifman, an Associate Administrative Judge of the Miami-Dade County Court. He previously served as Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health for the Supreme Court of Florida. He currently chairs the Florida Supreme Courts’ Steering Committee on Problem Solving Courts. He is the force behind this immensely successful initiative that pulls people out of the criminal justice system and places them in appropriate behavioral treatment programs. There is a great, free 1-hour documentary on Youtube about this program, The Definition of Insanity.
Coincidentally, just one hour north in Broward County is Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren. I am holding her book in the picture. She established the first Mental Health Court in the country. So, I will drive north to breakfast with her on Saturday and learn more about her work. By then, I will have read her book.
I am very excited about building a community of practice among people working in our criminal justice system to eliminate stigma. It is one of many ways to ensure people get the treatment they need nationwide.
“The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories we tell ourselves as a society. What is normal? That’s just a story that we tell ourselves.”
– Matthew Quick