Mentally ill accused of crimes are waiting too long for competency evaluations, Colorado reveals |

Mentally ill accused of crimes are waiting too long for competency evaluations, Colorado reveals

State can’t keep up with monthly court orders for competency evaluation, which jumped from 146 to 215

A guard is reflected in a security mirror in the hallway at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.
Helen H. Davis/Denver Post file

People with mental illness who are accused of crimes in Colorado are waiting up to four times as long as legally allowed for evaluations and treatment because the system is so overwhelmed, their attorneys say.

Colorado is bound by a 2012 lawsuit settlement to conduct mental competency evaluations or begin treatment for people found incompetent to stand trial within 28 days of a judge’s order. But for the second time in six months, the state has revealed it is failing to meet the requirements of the federal settlement.

Court orders for mental competency evaluations are outpacing capacity at an “unabating rate,” clogging the system and forcing people to languish longer in lock-up, according to a legal letter written by the Colorado Department of Human Services.

In June 2016, the system received 146 competency evaluation orders and 54 orders for “restoration,” which is mental health treatment to restore people found incompetent so that they can then face charges. A year later, in June, the system received 215 competency orders and 93 restoration orders — increases of 47 percent and 72 percent, respectively. The numbers have remained high in the months since.

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