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October 24, 2006

Hundreds Come to St. Francis to Learn About Mental Illness and the Courts

Brooklyn DA Hynes Keynotes

A packed auditorium of lawyers, researchers, mental health professionals and advocates came to St. Francis College all day Friday to learn about mental illness and the courts.

More than 300 people filled Founder's Hall to hear opening remarks from Hon. Neil Firetog of the 2nd Judicial District and the Keynote Address from Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

District Attorney Hynes gave two case studies of people who have been helped by two programs Hynes has championed, Brooklyn's Mental Health Court and Treatment Alternatives for the Dually Diagnosed (TADD). "Since inception, approximately 131 participants have completed Mental Health Court and 300 participants have graduated from TADD. Many more are currently in treatment. These are people who, if these diversion programs were not in place, would have ended up in jail or prison; would not have had access to quality community-based treatment; and would have returned to the community with not only a higher likelihood of recidivism, but also the burden of an additional serious criminal conviction," said DA Hynes.

Martin Karopkin, former NYC Criminal Court Judge and Ann-Marie Louison, Director of Mental Health, Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services) then presented the first panel discussion on Mental Illness and Criminal Justice: An Unfortunate Combination. They both spoke about the need to identify mental illness in defendants and the importance of getting them proper treatment. Former Justice Karopkin noted that better outreach needs to be in communities as a whole, "People shouldn't have to come through the court system to be treated for mental illness."

The two other panels were, Creating Alternatives to Incarceration: Why Is It So Hard? (featuring Hon. Patricia Marks of the Monroe County Mental Health Court, Mary Beth Anderson of the Legal Aid Society, and Bruce David, Director of Forensic Psychiatry at the Nassau University Medical Center) and The Mental Health Court Experiment: Evaluating Its Effects (featuring Hon. Matthew D'Emic of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, Allison Redlich of Policy Research Associates, Tammy Seltzer, Director of State Policy at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, and Kelly O'Keefe of the Center for Court Innovation).

St. Francis College and the Center for Court Innovation jointly hosted the conference.

Brooklyn's Mental Health Court was a groundbreaking program that is now one of about 125 mental health courts across the country. The program offers offenders with a serious mental illness an alternative to jail time by agreeing to follow a course of long-term treatment for mental illness. Defendants are required to continue treatment and make repeated courtroom appearances to monitor their progress.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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