History

Officially incorporated on July 13, 1981, the Forensic Mental Health Association of California was established to formalize the goals and objectives of forensic mental health professionals throughout the state of California and to ensure the continuation of an ongoing forum for education and discussion on matters pertaining to forensic mental health and related issues.

Events leading to the establishment of the Association can be traced as far back as the early 1970's. Mental health professionals, along with others interested and affiliated with the mental health and criminal justice systems, became increasingly concerned about the plight of mentally ill persons in county jails and state prisons. In San Francisco, attempts to establish guidelines for providing mental health services to the jail population led to the development of Jail Psychiatric Services in March 1973, which today continues to provide a full range of mental health treatment options to inmates in the San Francisco City and County jail system.

Acknowledging the importance and unique nature of the forensic component of mental health, California established the Forensic Services Unit in the 1970's, now the Forensic Services Branch of the California Department of State Hospitals. In 1975, Assemblyman Frank Lanterman sponsored the Jail Services Review Bill (AB 1229), which was ultimately passed.

Some of the original collaborators are still involved in FMHAC and attend the annual conference!

The first Forensic Mental Health Conference was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in 1975. Most of the individuals attending this and subsequent early conferences were involved in newly developing organizations and services within their own counties and agencies. The concept of forensic services as a legitimate part of mental health programming was new, and the Department of Health had no direct control over forensic services at the county level at this time. In some counties, jail services were given support and in others they received little attention. By the end of the third conference, an informal leadership had developed that called for quarterly meetings of the AB 1229 Coordinators. Everyone agreed with the concept, but they were all acutely aware that funding would be difficult to obtain.

In the fall of 1977, an AB 1229 Coordinators meeting was held in San Jose where it was suggested that a regular conference was needed to provide a forum for ongoing discussion about forensic research, clinical and administrative issues, and other related matters. There was again broad agreement but no official funds were available for such activity.

During the conference in 1979, at an informal social gathering, several members of the leadership group discussed the need to form an association that would provide a structure for the continuation of the annual conference. A group was formed to explore the issues involved in forming such an association, and the assignment of planning the next conference was delegated. In 1980, for the first time, an organization being referred to as the Forensic Mental Health Association co-sponsored the conference.

At the annual conference in 1981, the Articles of Incorporation for The Forensic Mental Health Association of California were reviewed and approved by the membership. The Articles were officially approved by the Secretary of State on July 13, 1981. The leadership of the Association over the years has included many who have also provided leadership and direction for forensic services at the county and state level in California.

Since 1981, the Association has produced a conference in the Monterey Bay area every year. The Association is proud to have had this opportunity to serve forensic professionals from a wide variety of disciplines. Each year there has been an increase in the number of participants, and the Association has grown into a more professional and independent body. Broader in its interests, the Association continues to expand its appeal and its sphere of influence. The Board of Directors and the membership of the Association are committed to the goals of quality forensic service and the provision of forensic education and training. Individually and collectively, the membership represents the heart and history of forensic services in California.