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New program reduces waitlist for court-ordered treatment

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DENVER (Jan. 17, 2023) — A new program created by the Colorado Office of Civil and Forensic and Mental Health (OCFMH) has restored 25% of clients to competency without the need for inpatient hospitalization since it began in July 2022. This is helping reduce the number of Coloradans who are currently awaiting inpatient treatment because they have been charged with a crime and found by a judge to be incompetent to proceed to trial. Competency is a legal construct that refers to an individual’s current capacity to function meaningfully and knowingly in a legal proceeding.

The pre-restoration education program pilots a new strategy that partners with Colorado’s jails to offer competency restoration education while clients are waiting for admission to the mental health hospitals. 

The program, which is funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, has served 57 clients in the past six months. Throughout that time, it has restored 25% of those clients to competency, placed 31% in inpatient services and placed 6% in outpatient services. Twenty-five percent of cases were dismissed by the court, and the remaining 13% declined to participate. 

“CDHS has seen an exponential increase in requests for restoration services since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said Leora Joseph, director of OCFMH. “We know the old way of doing things isn’t going to cut it anymore, and we are always looking to implement bold, creative and innovative new programs to better serve Coloradans.”

Colorado is one of the first states in the country to pilot a program like this. Pre-restoration educators provide instruction on basic legal knowledge and rational decision-making with the goals of increasing the client’s understanding of legal proceedings and their ability to consult with their attorney. These services are offered in conjunction with mental health care and psychiatric medication management. Individuals working with a pre-restoration educator have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, have been found incompetent to proceed to trial and are residing in one of the 11 county jails that are offering jail-based behavioral health services. This includes Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa, Pueblo and Weld counties. 

These pre-restoration services are distinct, as the client is referred to the program and remains on the admission list for inpatient restoration treatment, but will have a potentially reduced length of stay for inpatient or outpatient treatment. Clients participating in pre-restoration education may receive additional services tailored to address their unique barriers to competency. Examples include jail-based medication evaluation and management, behavioral health counseling, peer support and case management.

The Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health's Forensic Services Division provides evaluation, treatment and case management to the forensic population statewide. Services include evaluations and opinions on competency to proceed, sanity and mental condition evaluations, jail-based and community-based competency restoration services and case management of pretrial detainees and of persons found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI).

Media contact:
Jordan Johnson, OCFMH Communications Manager