Legislation aimed at addressing treatment options for individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial has been signed into law. The bill, authored by Senator David Senjem (R-Rochester), was included as part of the larger health and human services omnibus bill that was ceremonially signed into law on Tuesday by Governor Tim Walz.
“We have a growing number of individuals that are found unfit to stand trial, but very few resources available to treat their illnesses. This is a crisis,” Senator Senjem said. “We have to do a better job of making sure people are able to stand trial – and eventually re-enter society in a productive way. This is about restoring competency, but also about preventative measures to make sure competency restoration is not needed. This task force will allow us to consider all options.”
The legislation directs a task force to consider the cause of the increase in individuals deemed unfit for trial, as well as potential solutions for restoring competency and preventative measures to keep individuals out of the criminal justice system. The task force will consider current services and resources, county data, programs in other states, and other research in developing recommendations for prevention and diversion efforts and competency restoration services. The task force, which will include legislators, law enforcement, mental health experts, and other local officials, will submit its recommendations to the legislature by February 1, 2020.
The bill also has the support of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota.
“In some cases, individuals unfit for trial end up right back in our communities – and then back in jail – because we do not have adequate services to address this problem,” Senator Senjem continued. “We need to prevent people from going to jail in the first place, but we also need to make sure appropriate mental health treatment is available for all.”
Senator David Senjem, of Rochester, represents communities in Dodge and Olmsted counties in the Minnesota Senate. Senator Senjem serves as chairman of the Senate Capital Investment Committee and is a former majority leader and minority leader.