Colorado’s 18th Judicial District Wellness Court Forms Clinical Advisory Committee to Ensure Best Practices in Managing Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders

Equitas Executive Director, Vincent Atchity, joins the newly formed Clinical Advisory Committee (CAC) established by Colorado’s 18th Judicial District Wellness Court. The committee is comprised of doctors, clinicians, and Problem Solving Court experts who have working knowledge of major mental health conditions and substance use disorders and will provide clinical insight to the Wellness Court, ensure the highest standard of care in treatment and services, and provide guidance on treatment and service practices.

In an effort led by Judge Bonnie McLean of Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, a Clinical Advisory Committee (CAC) has been established to provide clinical insight to the Wellness Court, ensure the highest standard of care in treatment and services, and provide guidance on treatment and service practices. McLean presides over a domestic court docket and is in charge of the district’s mental health, drug, and veterans’ treatment courts. She helped develop the first drug court in the Eighteenth Judicial District (which encompasses Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties). Prior to her appointment as a magistrate in 2006, McLean worked as a deputy district attorney in the Eighteenth Judicial District, where she was in charge of the juvenile delinquency unit.

The 18th Judicial District Wellness Court is a co-occurring Problem Solving Court. The goal of the Wellness Court is to increase public safety by reducing recidivism of offenders with co-occurring diagnosis through treatment and supervision. The court strives to ensure participant accountability, support recovery, and improve the quality of life for participants and their families with a cost effective, evidence-based integrated continuum of care.

Among those invited to join the CAC is Equitas Foundation Executive Director, Dr. Vincent Atchity. Equitas is pursuing a national strategy to unite influential allies in focusing their collective problem-solving energy on disentangling the nation’s costly and ineffective management of mental health crises from our criminal justice system.

Dr. Atchity joins a well-respected list of community leaders who have also agreed to serve on the Clinical Advisory Committee including:

  • Dr. Patrick Fox, Chief Medical Officer at Colorado Department of Human Services
  • Matt Vogel, Executive Director of the National Center for Behavioral Health Innovation – University of Colorado Health Sciences
  • Dr. Libby Stuyt, Medical Director at Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, Circle Program
  • Dr. Rich Martinez, Director, Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship at University of Colorado
  • Dr. Neil Gowensmith, Clinical Assistant Professor at Denver University and Director of Denver First
  • Brenidy Rice, State Problem Solving Court Coordinator at the Office of the State Court Administrator
  • Terri Hurst, Policy Coordinator at Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
  • Lisa Thompson, Director of Housing First and Assertive Community Treatment at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

The 18th Judicial District Wellness Court is currently undergoing a major overhaul to improve outcomes through treatment and support. The district is already looking to restructure its phase system as well as its sanctions and incentives to implement the most up-to-date, evidence-based research practices. Some of the biggest upcoming changes to this program will be to treatment, case management, and community supervision.

While judicial districts all over the United States have begun to implement Wellness Courts, or other-named equivalents, in order to provide supervised treatment, recovery, and reintegration as an alternative to extended periods of incarceration, there is great variation in practice from court to court. The 18th Judicial District Wellness Court’s Clinical Advisory Committee and the Equitas Foundation will work to identify the best practices that ensure the efficacy of Judge McLean’s corrective and healing work in Colorado, and that may be shared with other communities doing similar work across the nation.

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