Courts and the communities they serve are having difficulties meeting the challenges that come with the behavioral health issues experienced by the people seen in our courts when behavioral health and crime intersect. These behavioral health issues also impact the families of the affected individuals as well as local communities in significant ways. Community resources are strained, inadequate, and fragmented which means that the cycle of crime associated with behavioral health challenges seems to continue largely unchecked.

Therapeutic specialty courts have done wonders with the people that have been served by them, but limited resources combined with screening criteria create boundaries to entry for many. This means that courts and communities are not able to do much for people at the early stages when the issues and impacts are still controllable or for people that are not otherwise eligible.

Federal Way Municipal Court is taking on this challenge with a multi-faceted approach using the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) with barrier-free warm-handoffs to treatment and services through peer support personnel provided by Peer Kent. Des Moines and Renton Municipal Courts are also taking this approach. Federal Way and Des Moines are sharing a grant from the Administrative Office of the Courts while Renton is operating under a separate grant.

Peer support participation is not mandated; it is instead entirely voluntary, confidential, and free. This barrier-free access to peer services using SIM opens up the opportunity for therapeutic intervention at any stage of the proceedings. In Federal Way, people are allowed to access a peer support professional who will link the person to treatment and services if they are in court on a criminal case, an infraction, and even if they are in court supporting a family member or friend.

The way SIM works is to make interventions available in an organized way at every “intercept.” There are six intercepts in SIM: community services (Intercept 0), law enforcement (Intercept 1), initial appearance in court (Intercept 2), at disposition (Intercept 3, including therapeutic courts), jail reentry (Intercept 4), and probation (Intercept 5). More information about SIM can be found here.

Federal Way, with assistance of a grant from the Administrative Office of the Courts in partnership with Des Moines Municipal Court, conducted a Sequential intercept Mapping Workshop. This workshop identified existing resources and gaps in South King County. That work is now being used to form a regional resource referral network.

Most important, peer warm handoffs are not just available in community court (Intercept 3), they are available as the means to connect people to services and treatment at Intercepts 2, 3, and 5, the intercepts controlled by the court. Peer Kent is also allowed to work in the SCORE Jail and Federal Way Police have also agreed to use Peer Kent for Blake referrals. This means that people have access to peers and services in five of the six intercepts which means that the available reach for therapeutic intervention is expanded substantially.

Does this approach work? In the first nine months, this approach served 1,445 people. Many of the people just needed referrals, but 691 people continued to engage in ongoing contact with peers.

The WSADCP Training Committee would like to thank Judge David Larson for his contribution to our Treatment Court Month celebration.