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Judge Awarded For Mental Illness Work

The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A Miami-Dade County judge has won state Supreme Court recognition for creating programs that have kept thousands of mentally ill people out of jail and into treatment.

Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga gave a newly established award for judicial excellence to Judge Steve Leifman, who created the Miami-Dade criminal mental health project in 2000. The program has diverted about 4,000 mentally ill people who are not safety risks from jail into treatment.

Leifman also was recognized for helping develop the nation' largest crisis intervention training program. More than 4,400 law enforcement officers have been trained to recognize signs of mental illness and respond appropriately to signs of psychiatric crisis.

That program is estimated to save Miami-Dade County $12 million a year by sharply reducing the number of arrests.