OCFMH congratulates Larimer County’s competency docket and seeks to fund dockets in more communities

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DENVER (Dec. 22, 2022) — The Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health (OCFMH) congratulates Larimer County’s competency court docket for being recognized with the 2022 Fort Collins Human Relations Award. Competency is a legal construct that refers to an individual’s current capacity to function meaningfully and knowingly in a legal proceeding.

This competency docket was the first of its kind in Colorado, and was formed in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and Larimer County in May 2021. Because competency matters account for less than 2% of all criminal cases, attorneys, judges, and other stakeholders rarely have the opportunity to become fluent in the issue of competency. This type of docket seeks to combine and consolidate competency-related cases to one division and/or one judge. The dedicated docket team has an understanding of competency statutes and processes, and reviews individual cases to get to the right outcomes sooner.

The Larimer County docket has resulted in 159 clients receiving competency evaluations in the community, meaning individuals don’t have to wait in jail for this service. The team meets weekly to discuss each case individually to address specific obstacles to competency restoration for each client.

“Expanding this model is a culture and practice shift,” said Leora Joseph, director of OCFMH. “We are grateful to all the judges who are willing to partner with us to find innovative solutions to support Coloradans struggling with their mental health and eliminate the wait for these services.”

CDHS was sued in 2011 for failure to provide timely competency evaluations and restoration treatment, which has created a significant waitlist of pretrial detainees. CDHS has been subject to requirements resulting from the lawsuit since then and is currently under court oversight of a 2019 consent decree and is fined up to $12 million per year for non-compliance with the consent decree. The fines go into a fund to be distributed to programs aimed at eliminating the waitlist, including funding a case manager and services team lead on Larimer County’s competency docket. In addition to the work this team does on the legal side, they also help individuals attain resources and support such as medication, housing, therapy and more.

“We have put a lot of time and effort into working with local jurisdictions to find solutions that work for each unique community,” said Amanda Edwards, director of the Forensic Services Division. “Taking an individualized look at each case means Coloradans are able to connect with comprehensive resources and support they need to support their mental well-being.”

Because the Larimer County competency docket has had such success, OCFMH has partnered with other judicial districts and counties to develop competency dockets to meet their local needs as well. Four other communities, including the judicial districts in El Paso, Pueblo and Denver, as well as the Denver County Diversion Program, have stood up competency dockets. Additionally, the state is working with partners to stand up seven more. OCFMH believes this local-based strategy will continue to make an impact in communities across the state. Jurisdictions that are interested in creating a competency docket in their area can reach out to courtservices@state.co.us

The CDHS Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health (OCFMH) operates Colorado’s two mental health hospitals, the Forensic Services Division and the Division of Mental Health Transition Living. The office provides a continuum of mental health care that includes pre-trial restoration services, inpatient hospitalization and, soon, transition homes for community-based care.

Media contact:
Jordan Johnson
Communications Manager