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Colorado program to reduce wait times for court-ordered treatment in competency trials sees some success

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Posted at 2:38 PM, Jan 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-30 16:39:24-05

DENVER – A Colorado program that seeks to reduce wait times for court-ordered treatment in competency trials has seen some success, according to figures provided by the Colorado Office of Civil and Forensic and Mental Health (OCFMH) earlier this month.

The program – part of the Colorado Department of Human Services – claims it has restored 25% of patients to competency without the need for inpatient hospitalization since it began in July 2022, according to a news release from OCFMH spokesman Jordan Johnson.

The OCFMH currently operates Colorado’s two mental health hospitals, the Forensic Services Division and the Division of Mental Health Transition Living.

Its purpose is to help reduce the number of Coloradans who are currently awaiting inpatient treatment because they have been charged with a crime and found by a judge to be incompetent to proceed to trial.

“CDHS has seen an exponential increase in requests for restoration services since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said Leora Joseph, director of OCFMH. “We know the old way of doing things isn’t going to cut it anymore, and we are always looking to implement bold, creative and innovative new programs to better serve Coloradans.”

So far, the program has helped 57 patients of which 25% have been restored to competency, while another 31% have been placed in inpatient services and another 6% in outpatient services, Johnson said. Another 25% of cases were dismissed by the court and the remaining 13% of patients declined to participate, he added.

Colorado joins other state scattered across the country to pilot such a program, with similar programs existing in Texas, Washington state, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

“Pre-restoration educators provide instruction on basic legal knowledge and rational decision-making with the goals of increasing the client’s understanding of legal proceedings and their ability to consult with their attorney,” Johnson said in the news release. Those services are offered in conjunction with mental health care and psychiatric medication management, he added.

A new unit for the program recently opened on the Colorado Mental Health Hospital campus (CMHHIFL) in Fort Logan.

The program is funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

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