COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Judges, law enforcement, advocates and others got together in Columbia Monday to discuss mental health and the criminal justice system.
The South Carolina Judicial Department hosted the South Carolina Courts Mental Health Summit. Officials said participants discussed best practices, policies and possible legislation.
Their goal is to improve system responses to individuals with mental illness in South Carolina.
“To hold the summit is a step by the judicial branch to do something, to take some action and hopefully to come up with a plan to address the serious mental health issues that we have and we encounter in the judicial system,” Chief Justice Donald Beatty said.
Officials said across the country and statewide, jails and detention centers are among the largest providers of mental health services in the country.
Bed space at private and public mental health facilities is limited, and state courts are often a primary point of contact between the community and those experiencing serious mental illness.
During Monday’s summit, Judge Steve Leifman, who has worked on reforming the way people with serious mental illnesses are treated in the criminal justice system in Miami-Dade county, said solutions are not an overnight fix.
“By putting together this type of event will give the judges the tools that they need on how to identify people who have these illnesses, how to talk to these folks and then what treatment opportunities there might be for them to make sure that they get better,” Leifman said.
Monday’s summit was supported by the National Center for State Courts and the State Justices Institute.