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Colorado Judicial Department launches program to support mental health needs

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

DENVER – The Colorado Judicial Department is preparing to launch a unique program that will improve communication and collaboration between the criminal justice and behavioral health systems to help ensure defendants who need mental health services have access to them.

The Bridges Program was created by the General Assembly’s passage earlier this year of Senate Bill 18-251, which appropriated $2 million for the State Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO) to contract with behavioral health organizations across Colorado to provide at least one court liaison in each of the state’s 22 judicial districts.

The court liaisons will work directly with defendants to ensure they receive appropriate evaluations and needed mental health services.

The court liaisons also will work to ensure that judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are informed about mental health services available in their community, including services for defendants who have been ordered to undergo an evaluation to determine their competency to proceed in a criminal matter, and those who require services to restore competency.

In approving the program, the General Assembly recognized that people with mental health and substance use disorders are over-represented in the criminal justice system and are at significantly greater risk than the general public of becoming involved in the system and having harsher consequences. Through the Bridges Program, the General Assembly strives to promote more positive outcomes for these individuals.

“Fostering collaboration is one way of making sure that we are managing our state’s resources wisely,” State Court Administrator Christopher T. Ryan said. “The Bridges Program is a well-thought-through and innovative approach that strengthens our systems and creates a path toward the mental health and well-being of Coloradans who encounter the criminal justice system.”

Earlier this month, the SCAO issued a statewide request for proposals from behavioral health organizations who would provide court liaisons to support access to services for people in the criminal justice system. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 10, 2018, and the program is expected to begin running by Oct. 1, 2018. For more information on the RFP, please contact Jennifer Turner with the Bridges Program at jennifer.turner@judicial.state.co.us.

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