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public policy committee

The Public Policy Committee advocates for policies, research, laws and regulations that provide for safe and effective forensic mental health programs.  It formulates public policy statements and provides timely advice to the Board and Association members on pending or proposed legislation relating to forensic mental health. Read our current and past initiatives.


Sam Knudsen, Esq
San Bernardino, CA



Public Policy Platform

Public Policy Platform 2005
Submitted to the FMHAC Board 1-10-05
Judy Tiktinsky, Ph.D., LCSW


Individuals in Criminal Justice settings with mental illness (with or without co-occurring disorders) suffer extreme stigma when released to community settings. While it is difficult for all individuals with histories of mental illness or co-occurring disorders to obtain adequate housing, a source of income, and a network of resources to support them in the community, individuals stigmatized by conviction of a crime are at extreme risk of harm from homelessness, or unstable housing; and possible re-incarceration due to homelessness. In addition these individuals may no longer have contact with family or friends and daily spend most of their time trying to survive. While they may require a great deal off assistance and support to access community based housing and resources, the assistance is frequently not available.

Unfortunately, mental health and other community based providers of services are frequently frightened of these individuals due to the individuals  past behavioral problems. This has one of several impacts: 1) the individual will be “ reported to” or “come to the attention” of the police if he/she is homeless 2) the individual will be placed in a locked facility 3) services provided will be fragmented or shifted between organizations 4) intake procedures will be implemented that will prevent provision of services. These procedures may include: A. The individual must be sober for a period of time prior to getting a particular service;  B. The individual must qualify and have evidence of coverage meeting “medical necessity criteria” for medical coverage.

Historically, individuals in this population were frequently not served well by the mental health system. Mental health staff were often not trained to safely and appropriately provide services. This further increased the risk that the police department became the default provider.

Public Policy Recommendations

The Forensic Mental Health Association of California advocates the following: 

  1. The Forensic Mental Health Association of California endorses the Consensus Project (website: www.consensusproject.org) and recommends that as many of the projects as reasonably possible be implemented in California. Implementation of these strategies would reduce the number of individuals with mental illness who cycle through the criminal justice system.
  2. The CA County Mental Health Directors adopt a resolution that identifies individuals with mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders at risk of entering or returning to the community from a criminal justice/juvenile system as a high priority population (who will not be receiving services from CDC within 90 days) to receive appropriate and timely mental health, social service, medical and  public health, housing, legal and other community based services.
  3. Each county Mental Health Board (MHB) establish a Criminal Justice Network Committee charged with developing a community plan to address the needs (identified in #2 above) of individuals in this population returning to the community. The plan should include discussion of a range of housing and neighborhoods options, relevant issues identified in the Olmstead decision, community partnerships, problem solving process and specific measurable outcomes in a time frame. This plan is to be reviewed quarterly  by the MHAB the first year and annually thereafter.
  4. Legal Aid  Organizations evaluate the Federal Olmstead decision as it is implemented in California and as it relates to the needs of  psychiatrically disabled inmates to be released to communities.
  5. Training programs in risk assessment, safe intervention strategies for individuals in crisis including mental health, police and public health perspectives for multi-agency collaborations are essential to enhance clear communication and strategies to serve multi challenged individuals in the community at the least restrictive level.


About the Public Policy

The objective of the committee is to review legislation and gather information about needed changes in the forensic mental health field.  It also proposes a conceptual framework and annual legislation plan for the Association and coordinates legislative or public testimony for initiatives proposed by the Board of Directors.  The Chair of this committee, the Vice President, heads 6 members.

Membership is recommended by the Vice President and approved by the President, subject to the approval of the Board of Directors.  Membership is for one year to coincide with the Association’s fiscal year and members may be re-appointed to successive terms.  FMHAC tries to ensure that the members reflect the diversity of the Association’s membership.

Meetings are held at least twice each fiscal year.  A schedule is established at the beginning of the term, however, meetings may be held as necessary at the discretion of the Chair.  Meetings may be held in person or by conference call.

Learn how to get involved with this committee.

FMHAC 2008