San Francisco's Behavioral Health Court will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year Oct. 16 at 6 PM at the St. Francisco Yacht Club. In 2003, the San Francisco Superior Court started a program to redirect clients with mental illness out of the jails and into community based mental health treatment. The Honorable Ksenina Tsenin created Behavioral Health Court with the modest goal of helping 10-20 people in the jail that were incarcerated for showing signs of untreated mental illness in public. Senator Diane Feinstein is our honorary chair.
Ten years later, the court has a capacity of 150 clients and the program is a fully integrated and necessary part of the criminal justice system in San Francisco. Behavioral Health Court has been the subject of numerous research studies and has become a leader in the movement to decriminalize mental illness, reduce violence, and spend precious mental health resources more effectively.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Behavioral Health Court’s outcomes stand out as compared with other similar programs, “…San Francisco's court served the highest proportion of participants with schizophrenia and the greatest percentage who committed crimes against people rather than property. Yet San Francisco's program showed the greatest drop among the four courts in re-arrests compared to control groups, a 39% reduction compared to a 7% drop.”
In October, we will acknowledge the program, “Celebrating A Decade of Behavioral Health Court.” During this special evening event we will:
1. Recognize the accomplishments of the program;
2. Raise awareness about the reality of mental health issues in our community; and
3. Identify future goals for the broad based collaboration that created the program.
As an outcome of this event, we hope to launch a citywide initiative to provide guidance to decision makers about important developments at the intersection of mental health and law. The San Francisco Leadership Forum on Law and Mental Health will focus attention on three areas: educating the community about mental health and legal involvement; maximizing resources through the use of evidence based treatment modalities; and, restoring dignity through appropriate care and treatment.
As a vice chair of the committee, I call this event to your attention and invite your participation.