NM high court creates commission to improve response to mental health issues

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Newsletter Report

The New Mexico Supreme Court created a permanent commission in April to improve how the justice system responds to people struggling with mental health issues.

The New Mexico Commission on Mental Health and Skills will include representatives from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, tribal governments, advocates for behavioral health and housing services, people with life experience in mental health issues and partners in the criminal justice system – law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys, the court said in a news release.

“The commission will develop a roadmap for New Mexico to better meet the behavioral health needs of adults and minors who come into contact with our state justice system,” said Judge Briana Zamora, who will oversee the liaison of the tribunal with the commission.

“The creation of this Judiciary Commission is a major step forward for New Mexico and has never been more critical,” said K. Lynn Gallagher, director of the City of Las Cruces Quality of Life Department and former Secretary of the New Mexico Department. Health. “According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of those incarcerated in the United States today are affected by one or more mental health conditions. And New Mexico spends several million dollars a year incarcerating people who likely should have been diverted using programs like LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) or placed in treatment centers, like triage centers. of crisis. I hope the design and membership of the group will include multi-generational, diverse, and statewide representation to ensure that evidence-based best practices are considered for this vulnerable group of individuals and growing in all parts of our state. It’s always important to build partnerships and pathways to better health outcomes,” Gallagher said.

“The commission can foster a collaborative response in our courts and communities to respond effectively and fairly to people with mental health issues,” said Supreme Court Justice Michael Vigil.

The commission will have a wide range of responsibilities, including reviewing policies and procedures around a person’s fitness to stand trial and examining how to better identify people in need of mental health treatment. before they enter the justice system. The commission should also explore ways to expand behavioral health resources available in communities and courts across the state, especially in underserved communities and rural areas.

In an April 8 order, the court said the commission’s “objectives will be to promote fair treatment of those affected, to enhance public safety through appropriate and meaningful behavioral health interventions, and to provide education.” and appropriate training for judges, lawyers, court personnel and intersystem partners at the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice.

The court will appoint the commission’s 17 voting members and encourage the participation of other groups and government organizations as ex-officio members, including the New Mexico Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Division of Behavioral Health Services of the New Mexico Department of Social Services, the Behavioral Health Division of the State Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the New Mexico Institute of Behavioral Health, the Department of State Corrections, the State Department of Indian Affairs, the State Department of Veterans Services, and the Association of New Mexico Counties.

The court is looking for candidates for the commission.

Applicants should send a letter of interest to Chief Supreme Court Clerk Elizabeth Garcia by email to nmsupremecourtclerk@nmcourts.gov, by fax to 505-827-4837, or by first class mail to PO Box 848, Santa Fe, NM 87504.

Applicants should limit their letters to two pages, state the position they are seeking, and describe (1) why they wish to serve on the committee, (2) what they bring to the committee, and (3) their professional experience in mental health and competence. issues.

Letters of interest must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, May 27.

The court has several standing commissions working on justice system issues, including the Commission on Access to Justice and the Commission for Improving Juvenile Courts.

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