Legal Aid's MICA Project For Mentally Ill And Chemically Addicted New Yorkers Cited As A Success By State Division of Criminal Justice Services

The Legal Aid Society's MICA program for mentally ill and chemically addicted New Yorkers accused of crimes has been selected by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' Office of Program Development & Funding to be featured as a success in the agency's annual report.

The Legal Aid Society’s Enhanced Defense MICA (Mentally Ill, Chemically Addicted) Program aims to break the cycle of arrest for New Yorkers in Bronx, Kings, New York and Queens counties who have been dually-diagnosed with serious mental illness and substance abuse/dependence issues and are involved in the criminal justice system. The Project's attorneys and social workers divert clients from jail and prison into community treatment and supportive housing, thereby contributing to reduced recidivism. The Society's Enhanced Defense-MICA Project has provided legal and community support services to some of the most vulnerable defendants in New York City's criminal justice system. These individuals, struggling to live with co-occurring serious mental illness and addiction problems, are often underserved and victimized while incarcerated in jails and prisons. Studies show that those with mental illness are more likely to be arrested, detained longer in jail and sentenced more severely than those with similar charges without a mental illness. Correctional facilities are often ill-equipped to properly treat persons with mentally illness and prepare for their re-entry into the community. The MICA Project's comprehensive model partners' mental health attorneys with licensed clinical social workers and a Rikers Island community liaison to provide expert legal representation and social services. A main focus is to secure alternatives to incarceration for clients who can be legally diverted from jail and prison into community-based treatment. In addition to providing direct client services, the Project is committed to addressing the systemic issues facing the MICA population; through extensive consultative services, advocacy efforts, and training.