Town Hall Meeting:  Addressing the Intersection of Mental Illness and Criminal Justice


I.                     Welcome – Barbara Lee VanHorssen

II.                  Mental Illness Task Force Update - Barbara Lee VanHorssen

a.        Clinical Team:  NOCH is talking with Pine Rest about the expansion of their psychiatric and residency program.

b.       School System:  GH and SL staff have all been trained in QPR.  TCM and Bethany are continuing to provide counseling at the schools.

c.        Judicial System:  CMH is increasing staffing at the jail including a clinician and prescriber.  Mental Health Court received a block grant to increase staffing.  The Red Project continues to provide Naloxone trainings.

III.                Panel Presentation with Q & A

a.        Judge Knoll:  Worked to develop a Mental Health Court after identifying there was a problem where people were ending up in court that are in need of mental health treatment.  The Court tries to address areas of concern such as housing concerns, medications, therapeutic treatment and other psychosocial concerns.  Works to get probationers involved in their treatment and help people return to society without as many barriers in place and helps to prepare people for life after probation. 

b.       Judge Hoopes:  Operates a Mental Health Court in Muskegon, 60th District Court.  Learned about Mental Health Court 8 years ago through the National Judicial College and visited several Mental Health Courts around the state of Colorado.  The Mental Health Court is able to work with about 20 people at a time and have two CMH employees designated to work with the Court.  They have recently started group counseling for the men and women participating in the Mental Health Court.

c.        Judge Bunce:  Operates the Sobriety Treatment Court Team which gives people the option of seeking treatment for substance use or going to jail.  One of the things this court is able to do is monitor probationers who are pregnant and ensure they are not using during their pregnancy.

d.       Kelly Boeve:  Works for CMHOC and began working at the jail to provide crisis intervention for inmates including suicide assessments.  Coordinates jail diversion to get people who are in a mental health crisis to get admitted to the hospital instead of staying at the prison.  Conducts diagnostic assessments at the jail for the courts and provides a recommended treatment level to the Judges.  Works with the Mental Health Court to work with probationers to address their mental health concerns and keep them out of jail.

e.        Sandi Metcalf:  Juvenile Justice Vision 20/20 president and they have created a strategic plan to address juvenile justice issues.  The group wants to ensure Juvenile Courts continue and that they are addressing the needs of kids in the community who are delinquent.  Juvenile Court is the first specialty treatment court.  Oversees the Juvenile Court and this court offers a full continuum of services to assist kids with accessing the necessary treatment and services to live more stable lives.

f.        Doug Tjapkes:  Works for Humanity for Prisoners (HfP) that is an agency that works 1 on 1 with prisoners in MI.  HfP documents and seeks correction for abuses in the prison system of prisoners who are mentally ill.  HfP is advocating for prisoners, but would also like to see the employees at the prisons get trained in how to respond to someone who has a mental illness.

g.       Jonathan LaMire:  The Red Project works with people who have HIV or Hep C, educates people about the overdose epidemic and trains people on how to use the Naloxone kits.  Shared a personal story about working with the Drug Court and the issues someone faces when participating in the Court system

h.       Questions/Comments: 

                                                               i.      There is one other disease treated as a criminal offense and that would be persons with mental illness.

                                                             ii.      Q for Jonathan L.  I have a friend who has been dried out several times from alcohol.  Last time seen he had been sober and living on the other side of the state for several weeks.  When he returned to the area he hung out with friends and began drinking again.  Why was this person given no alternatives to take the place of alcohol such as finding new friends or other ways to avoid alcohol.  Should people be kept on a work farm until they are farther along in their treatment? 

1.       Answer:  Jonathan believes society should spend more money and effort on trying to deal with the disease of addiction instead of using the legal system to treat it.  Increase the amount of support groups that are available for people and helping people build strong support systems. 

2.        Answer:  Judge Knoll tries to give people who are struggling with addiction issues a choice on how they are going to live their lives.  While in the criminal justice system he works to enforce abstinence to help people learn how to live a sober life.  Wants to work with people to discuss the various programs that are available to assist people with maintaining their sobriety.

3.       Answer:  Judge Hoopes thinks looking at the root of the problem is helpful and the criminal justice system should look at the root cause of someone’s substance use or mental health concerns.

4.       Answer:  At the Juvenile Court they work to address the issues that may be leading a youth to begin experimenting or using drugs/alcohol.  They will work with families to try to address the root cause of the problem. 

                                                           iii.      Q How is the criminal justice system working with kids who have faced trauma in their lives.

1.       Answer:  Judge Hoopes understands that trauma is an issue for children and it is difficult to hear the stories about abuse and trauma the kids face.  Society is ignoring the level of poverty that is happening and needs to be addressed.  It is difficult as a Judge to hear the stories of people who are not connected with their families and lack a support system.

2.       Answer:  Judge Bunce works with people who are 17+ and they see the after effects of children who have face trauma in their lives.  The Sobriety Court often sees people with PTSD and works to refer them to the appropriate service providers.

IV.                Candidate Panel

a.        Vern Helder District Court Judge Candidate:  58th District Court does not have a mental health or sobriety court, but would be interested in starting a program at that court.  Understands that people who have mental health concerns need them addressed, but we also need to protect society.  Has a child diagnosed with OCD who has been receiving treatment and is successfully completing a Master’s degree.

b.       Judy Mulder District Court Judge Candidate:  As a health care professional Judy taught nurses about psychiatric treatment.   Serves on the 20th District Court Drug Court panel.  Believes we need to make society safer by reducing recidivism rates and addressing the problems of substance use treatment.  Would like to start a mental health court or drug treatment court at the 58th District Court.  Has a desire to treat the whole person and not just punishing but addressing the problem.

c.        Greg Vanwoerkom Rep. Bill Husienga’s Office:  There are 112 federal programs that deal with mental health issues.  Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act recently passed and this legislation will increase the amount of psychiatric beds available and will be working to address the Medicaid funding issues on where someone is able to get treatment.  This legislation will also help increase the amount of evidence based treatment practices are available to providers.  We are seeing the devastation of youth suicide in our area and this needs to be addressed by coming together as a community.  Currently working on legislation that would give Veteran’s access to crisis hotlines that have a live person answering.  Judges need to be allowed to get people who are in their courts to the right treatment options.

d.       Dennis Murphy US House Congressional Candidate:  Understands the struggle to connect people with substance use treatment because he has a family member who has struggled to be able to access treatment in a facility.  Is supportive of the President’s proposed budget with funds targeted towards addressing mental health concerns and substance use disorders. 

e.        Tim Meyer MI House Congressional Candidate:  Believes that our values should be heard in Lansing and the dollars supporting issues we care about in Ottawa County should be funded such as mental health.

f.        Dan Martin Circuit Court Judge Candidate:  There are not enough accommodations made in Courts for people who have mental health concerns.  We need to understand that a person should not be punished because of their disability, but should receive the treatment they need.  Looking at using the sequential intercept model (see handout) to address people who have mental health concerns in the criminal justice system.  We need to train law enforcement in crisis response training to work better with people who have mental health concerns.  Need to address re-entry after leaving the jail system and how to develop support systems for people.

g.       Karen Meidema Circuit Court Judge Candidate:  Need to address the youth suicide problem happening in Ottawa County and figure out why this is happening.  Works with the Sobriety Treatment Court and can approve people to participate in the program and has seen how people get vested in the program.  Participating on the Prescription Drugs and Opiates Task Force.

h.       Questions/Comments: 

                                                               i.      CMHOC is looking at large Medicaid reductions which led to the passing of the Mental Health Mission.  Does not understand why Ottawa is receiving cuts when there are large amounts of Medicaid dollars in Michigan.  Can you commit today to do everything in your power to restore the lost Medicaid funds to Ottawa County?

1.       Dennis Murphy:  Supports Obama Care and thinks the law may need to be tweaked to address the issues.

2.       Greg VanWoerkom:  The state is trying to streamline services and some internal politics have created some deficiencies.  The community supported the Mental Health Millage after identifying there was a way to fund it locally.  Need to address the issues of poverty in the country.  Visit

3.       Tim Meyer:  Would advocate for more funds for Ottawa County.  Need to fund social services to address areas of concern in Ottawa County.

                                                             ii.      Ottawa County has historically had great collaboration of the Courts with other programs and service providers.  The current grant process is difficult for the Courts to work with.  There are heavy reporting requirements and at times the turnaround time to submit a grant is very short and difficult for the Courts to react to.  Will the legislature ensure that funding will continue for the Courts and the programs offered.

                                                           iii.      Will Medicaid regulations be addressed for children who are in the Juvenile Justice System?  When kids are involved in the system their Medicaid stops when they are in the detention center.  There is a lack of psychiatric beds for children in the state of Michigan which needs to be addressed.

1.       Greg VanWoerkom:  They are working on legislation to address mental health, but not sure if it is addressing the Medicaid issues.  Maybe something could be put in the Medicaid waiver to address the issue.