October 25-27, 2017 | Miami, Florida
SLC Human Services & Public Safety Committee Technical Tour

Criminal Mental Health Project


Criminal Mental Health Project Fly-In
Criminal Mental Health Project Fly-In

A delegation of legislators from the Southern Legislative Conference attended a study tour of the Criminal Mental Health Project (CMHP) in Miami, Florida, October 25 – October 27, 2017. A nationally renowned program run by the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, CMHP diverts nonviolent defendants with serious mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders from the criminal justice system into community-based treatment programs. CMHP has served as a model throughout Florida and beyond.

During the two-day visit, delegates attended a private discussion with Associate Administrative Judge Steve Leifman, who founded CMHP in 2000, where they learned about the successes and challenges of CMHP’s many programs, including pre-booking crisis intervention training (CIT), misdemeanor and felony jail diversion, forensic hospital diversion, and access to an array of state and federal benefits. Delegates also had the opportunity to talk first-hand with a CMHP recovery peer specialist, an individual who is diagnosed with a mental illness and now works as a member of CMHP’s jail diversion program to assist participants with community re-entry and engagement in continuing treatment and services.

The SLC delegation observed the felony jail diversion court docket and received a tour of the mental health diversion facility, an ongoing project that will expand the capacity to divert individuals from the criminal justice system into comprehensive treatment programs that will leverage local, state and federal resources when completed in 2019.  Delegates also participated in a ride-along with CIT law enforcement officers who have received specialized training by CMHP experts to interact with individuals in Miami-Dade County suspected of having mental illnesses and/or substance abuse issues.

More than 5,000 law enforcement personnel from all 36 municipalities in Miami-Dade County have received CIT training from CMHP experts. An estimated 16,000-19,000 mental health crisis calls are received each year by CIT officers, resulting in thousands of diversions to crisis units and significant reductions in the number of arrests. Since 2010, the Miami-Dade Police Department and City of Miami Police Department have responded to approximately 72,000 mental health crisis calls, leading to nearly 40,000 diversions and only 138 arrests. 

Delegation participants included Sharon Cooper, Georgia, former chair of SLC’s Human Services and Public Safety Committee; Representative Robert Cornejo, Missouri; Representative Allen McNeill, North Carolina; and Senator Katrina Shealy, South Carolina, vice chair of SLC’s Human Services and Public Safety Committee.