Ending the Criminalization of Mental Illness: Judge Leifman and Cindy Schwartz, Miami Dade County, Florida

Judge Leifman and Cindy Schwartz attended a stakeholders meeting held at NEOMED on October 19, 2016 and provided a presentation entitled, Ending the Criminalization of Mental Illness, the following day (October 20, 2016).  Judge Leifman is an Associate Administrative Judge for Miami-Dade County Court in the Eleventh Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project and Cindy Schwartz is the Project Director for the Jail Diversion Program in the Eleventh Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project.  Judge Leifman and Cindy Schwartz provided expertise regarding changes Miami-Dade has made in how they handle mentally ill individuals within the Criminal Justice system.  Miami-Dade, Florida is a Stepping Up County that has made several strides to reduce the number of mentally ill individuals in jail.  Check out the links and attachments provided by Judge Leifman and Cindy Schwartz to learn more about the programs and policies in Miami-Dade:  

  • Criminal Mental Health Project (CMHP) was established in 2000 to divert individuals with serious mental illnesses or co-occurring substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system and into comprehensive community-based treatment and support services. The CMHP provides an effective, cost-efficient solution to a community problem and works by eliminating gaps in services, and by forging productive and innovative relationships among all stakeholders who have an interest in the welfare and safety of one of our community’s most vulnerable populations.
  • Mental Health Diversion Facility: Miami-Dade County has plans to begin renovating  a former state forensic hospital Facility and develop a Mental Health Diversion Facility which will provide a variety of treatment and support services for individuals with serious mental illnesses involved or at the risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.  The site is expected to be in full operation by 2018. 

Miami-Dade Forensic Alternative Center (MD-FAC): Diverts individuals with mental illnesses that were adjudicated incompetent to proceed to trial (ITP) from placement in state treatment facilities to placement in community-based treatment and competency restoration services.  Program participants have been charged with less serious offenses and are screened to ensure they do not pose public safety risks. 

  • Jail Diversion in Miami-Dade
  • Florida Legislation