Director, Coordinating Center of Excellence in Mental Health and Criminal Justice Jail Diversion Alternatives

Author:Jo Ann Harris
Position:What s A CCOE?

Page 1029

Republished with permission.

Director, Coordinating Center of Excellence in Mental Health and Criminal Justice Jail Diversion Alternatives.

This is the third article in a series about effectively dealing with mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system. Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Supreme Court of Ohio, has had a longtime interest in developing solutions to this problem and has formed the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mentally Ill in the Courts. This article addresses the role of the CCOE in the mental health-criminal justice interface.

The most frequent question I have been asked in the past six months is, "What's a CCOE?" The question has come from judges, lawyers, mental health professionals, probation officers, consumers, and from just plain curious folks. There is something in those initials that makes one want to know more.

CCOE is the abbreviation for Coordinating Center of Excellence. The Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) approved for operation, through its grant award process, eight Coordinating Centers of Excellence dealing with a number of mental health initiatives. These initiatives range from educating families about the dynamics of mental illness to advance directives (involving mental health issues) to criminal justice. Making jail diversion one of its priorities, ODMH funded thirteen jail diversion programs around the state in early 2000.

In May 2001, ODMH awarded the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board (ADM) a grant to begin a CCOE for Mental Health and Criminal Justice Jail Diversion Alternatives. The CCOE is a partnership between ODMH, the Summit County ADM Board, and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM).

The primary purpose of the CCOE is to support ongoing development of criminal justice diversion systems that service persons with psychiatric disabilities who have become involved in the criminal justice system. The Center works with the Office of Forensic Services to provide technical assistance to the 13 funded programs and to those municipalities and counties interested in developing diversion alternatives.

So what's the goal of the CCOE? We want to define what the best mental health practices may be to successfully divert the mentally ill population from criminalization to decriminalization. The next logical Page 1030 question is, "Why? Don't we have vehicles to deal with those problems?" You can answer...

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