Justice & Health
Far too often, people living with untreated severe mental illness in crisis are arrested and either taken to jail or to an emergency room. Neither is usually the appropriate place to meet their needs.
Fortunately, there is strong progress toward breaking this cycle in communities where the Meadows Institute has helped to design best-practice, multi-disciplinary response teams for mental health emergencies. However, decades of misdesigned community responses have left thousands of Texans with severe mental illness trapped in repeated rounds of crisis and incarceration. Breaking that cycle for good requires ongoing, systemic change to improve the way the justice system interacts with people living with mental illness.
These efforts coalesced in 2022 with the Center for Justice and Health, which is dedicated to developing and promoting bold, innovative programs to better support people living with mental health issues, their families, and communities. The Center’s first major focus is the Person-Centered Triage Approach (PCTA), which promises to lower arrest and use-of-force rates by expanding the ability of emergency center professionals to use research and data to more accurately gauge the needs of callers. The Center is planning to launch the initial phase of the PCTA National Collaborative in 2023, partnering with sites in Arizona, Texas, and possibly additional states to develop a proof of concept for the model, which is both scalable and procedurally just.
Because PCTA integrates mediation-based strategies into the crisis response triage process, this innovative approach has drawn the support of national philanthropies and the American Arbitration Association/International Center for Dispute Resolution (AAA/ICDR), which is funding the project jointly with the Sozosei Foundation. The award to the Institute from AAA/ICDR was the largest it has ever given.
The agenda beyond PCTA is just as exciting — the Center for Justice and Health will also address issues involving: access to justice and care-focused adjudication for people who have been arrested, breaking the cycle of justice-involved youth and families, and utilizing high-impact research to close existing gaps in care.
By working with community, state, and national leaders to pioneer and advance data-informed solutions, the Center’s work will help prevent unnecessary tragedies and free people with mental illness from endless cycles of crisis and confinement.