Springfield’s June CoC meeting took place on June 18, 2009. Notes from the meeting follow.
Adult Court Clinic
Andrew Bourke and Jeanette Walker, from BHN, visited with us to tell us about the services of the Adult Court Clinic, which provides services for superior and district courts throughout the four counties of Western Mass. The primary function of the Adult Court Clinic is to conduct court-ordered mental health evaluations for Section 35 and 12(e) proceedings, and for competency to stand trial.
Andrew came to our meeting to talk about the new mental health session that is starting in the Springfield District Court. The new session, pending final approval from Boston, will allow people with mental illness (with or without co-occuring substance abuse issues) to participate in voluntary intensive case management through the clinic as part of the disposition of a criminal case. The goal of the case management will be to prevent recidivism, and will apply a problem-solving approach to difficulties with compliance with court orders.
A defendant is referred into through program by his or her defense attorney. If you are working with someone who is mentally ill and has been arrested, here’s how you can help ensure a referral into the program: 1) Call the Court Clinic Coordinator, Tony Ransome, at 748-7701; 2) Call the defense attorney on the case if you know who this is; or 3) Call the county jail and ask to speak to the forensic clinician. There are times that a provider’s history with a defendant will include valuable information that can assist in ensuring that an appropriate referral is made.
Andrew also talked about Section 35 commitments, which are involuntary commitments of someone whose alcohol or drug use puts themselves or others at risk. Commitment can lead to inpatient substance abuse treatment for a period of up to 30 days.
The only people who can request a section 35 commitment are a spouse, blood relavive, guardian, police officer, physician, or court official. These individuals can petition the court for an order of commitment. If the court issues an order of commitment, the court orders the person who is the subject of the petition to come to court. This is done either through a summons (a written notice) or a warrant of apprehension, which authorizes the police to pick the person up and bring them to court. The person has a right to a lawyer, and is examined by a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist.
The court orders commitment only if 1) There is a medical diagnosis of alcoholism or substance abuse, AND 2) There is a likelihood of serious harm to the subject or others as a result of the substance abuse. The “likelihood of serious harm” must be directly related to the substance abuse and must be a threat now. It can include an inability to think clearly enough to care for or protect themselves in the community.
A concern in Springfield has been around the need for a physician to petition for the commitment if there is not a family member around who is able to petition, and the need for the physician to spend the day in court. Andrew told us that, if contact is made with the court, it can be arranged that the phycian show up just for the hearing, and the judge will be available to schedule just that hearing. In order to make these arrangements, call the court clinic, 748-7701, and talk to Tom Ransome.
Project Homeless Connect
Gerry announced that Project Homeless Connect is scheduled for the MassMutual Center for Sept. 29, 2009. We are asking individuals to serve as ‘team captains’ for organizing sets of services to be provided on that day. If you are interested in being a team captain, please contact Gerry, firstname.lastname@example.org or Doreen Fadus, email@example.com. The teams are: Health Care; Behavioral Health; Housing/HousingTriage; Employment & Training; Children & Adolescents; Veterans; Identification & Birth Certificates; Advocacy; and Amenities.
Gerry provided updates on the regional grant (reported elsewhere in the blog); Springfield ESG awards; HPRP RFPs; and the SHA Housing First Initiative. SHA has filled the most recent set of 26 Housing First units, and director Judge Abrashkin will being going back to the SHA Board of Directors to request more project-based vouchers. SHA is nearing the end of their wait list for chronically homeless individuals, so be sure to urge/work with folks who are chronically homeless to get them on the list.
Geraldine Kennedy mentioned that there have been four active TB cases in our community. The four individuals are hospitalized and are no longer is Springfield. As a precaution, testing is being done. Geraldine originally offered the services of Health Care for the Homeless to test any staff people; however, after the meeting, she called me to say that this wouldn’t be possible. After the meeting, Gerry spoke with Helen Caulton Harris, who indicated that staff people deemed at risk for exposure have already been tested, and further testing of staff is not indicated at this time, because the active cases have been gone from the community for several weeks. If there is any change in this information, CoC members will be notified.
The next Springfield CoC meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 16, 2009, at 10 am at the Office of Housing, 1600 E. Columbus Ave., Sprtingfield. At 11 am, the subcommittee on Accessing Mainstream Resources will meet.