Downtown Austin Community Court Selected as Criminal Justice Mental Health Learning Site

Downtown Austin Community Court Selected as Criminal Justice Mental Health Learning Site

The City of Austin’s Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) has been selected as one of ten communities to be an inaugural partner for the Criminal Justice Mental Health Learning Site Program (Program).  The United States. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program recently launched this Program to help improve outcomes for people with behavioral health needs in the criminal justice system. The Program is built around sharing best practices and successful strategies to ensure that advancements made by these learning sites can be replicated and scaled across the country. 


DACC’s current model focuses on both deflection and diversion, making DACC an ideal learning site for this Program. DACC deflects people from the criminal justice system by providing comprehensive and compassionate services to meet people’s needs before situations escalate to involve law enforcement. DACC’s diversion practices include offering everyone engaging in DACC court processes options for alternative resolutions, and individuals needing assistance have immediate connection to onsite housing-focused case managers, basic needs, and social service resources.    


This new Program, led by the Center for Justice and Mental Health Partnerships with BJA’s support, offers free training, resources, and support to communities wanting to improve outcomes or enhance current responses for people with behavioral health needs in the criminal justice system.  It will promote a holistic and evidence-based approach to criminal justice and mental health, recognizing the importance of integrating both systems to achieve better outcomes, with a focus on agencies and programs that serve people with behavioral health needs through other types of deflection, intervention, referral, and diversion from the criminal justice system. 


With only 10 communities selected as the inaugural learning sites, the Program will facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange, foster innovation, and provide mentorship for other agencies and organizations who are passionate about criminal justice and behavioral health reform.


“In our twenty-four years of service to the Austin community, we’ve proactively evolved to ensure our approach is meeting the needs of the people we serve and providing value to the community overall,” said Robert Kingham, DACC Court Administrator. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve as a Criminal Justice Mental Health Learning Site to share what we’ve learned, and to help other communities across the country as they develop programs aimed at improving outcomes and serving people effectively and compassionately.” 


This Program is an essential step towards building a more equitable and compassionate criminal justice system that addresses the underlying mental health issues of the people involved, ultimately leading to better outcomes for individuals and communities as a whole. Learn more about how DACC and other Learning Site partners will be providing peer-to-peer learning and mentoring opportunities to similar programs nationwide here.  

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