|For Immediate Release
Feb. 28, 2019
Media Contact: Amy Webb,
DHS Chief of Communications & Community Engagement
DHS Moving to Help Defendants Access Needed Behavioral Health Services
Push part of larger effort to improve the forensic system in Arkansas for criminal defendants
The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Aging, Adult, and Behavioral Health Services (DAABHS) is launching a new process to connect criminal defendants with needed mental health and substance abuse services as part of a larger effort to improve the forensic system in Arkansas.
Last year, DHS began analyzing the forensics system – the system for individuals for whom courts or attorneys request mental evaluations as part of a criminal proceeding –as it grappled with timely completion and filing of court-ordered evaluations. DHS identified three goals during its review of the system along with steps to quickly achieve those goals:
• Goal 1: Ensure defendants get needed behavioral health services throughout the legal process and, regardless of whether or not they were found mentally fit to proceed with a trial,
o Create a new path for courts to refer a person for treatment without going through the forensic system or Arkansas State Hospital. Today there is no simple way for this to happen.
o Require treatment recommendations accompany all mental health evaluations, which will create a formal process connecting defendants to treatment that does not exist today.
• Goal 2: Improve timeliness and quality of court-ordered forensic evaluations
o Institute new rate structure for outpatient evaluations
o Institute quality reviews prior to court submission
o Map process and create new case milestones and deadlines
• Goal 3: Improve communications from DAABHS with courts and attorneys
o Add legal team to work with courts and provide regular updates
o Move to electronic records
The changes to meet these goals will be in place March 15.
“One of the things we realized was that there was no formal process for ensuring that defendants who had identified behavioral health issues, such as a substance abuse problem, could get the help they needed unless they were found mentally unfit for trial,” said Deb Inman, DAAHBS forensics administrator. “But if we can address their issues, hopefully we can prevent them from coming back into the criminal court system.”