Kate Lawson is a subject matter expert in the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice, with experience in both the legal and behavioral health fields. She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Arizona, Eller College of Business and Management, with an emphasis in criminal justice. Ms. Lawson’s career began conducting behavioral health research on maximum-security prison inmates. She was part of the team that created the first felony Mental Health Court (MHC) in Arizona in 2004, and also launched Pima County’s first jail-based Restoration to Competency program in 2007.
In her prior position as the Criminal Justice Manager for the Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) for Southern Arizona, she worked closely with the community behavioral health providers, law enforcement, courts, jail, probation, parole, and community organizations to improve outcomes for individuals with behavioral health disorders and increase public safety. Since 2009, Kate has been the co-facilitator for the Southern Arizona Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training (a 40-hour training for law enforcement), which was awarded Program of the Year by CIT International in 2015 and was recently recognized by the Department of Justice as a model program and identified as a “Learning Site” for other police agencies. She is a certified Public Safety Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor and has trained over 1,200 public safety personnel in CIT, and 800 police officers in MHFA.
Kate is currently the Director of Specialty Court Initiatives with the Pima County Attorney’s Office, under the direction of County Attorney, Barbara LaWall. Her responsibilities include oversight of the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program. The DTAP program takes high-risk, high-need substance addicted individuals with prison-mandatory felony charges and instead sends them to residential treatment, provides wraparound services like housing and job support, and intensive supervision.
Ms. Lawson sits on multiple justice system reform and community commissions, including the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, and is a board member for NAMI Southern Arizona. In 2015 she received the Citizens Medal from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, in 2017 received recognition from the FBI for community service in justice system reform, and in 2018 received the Unit Service Medal from the Tucson Police Department, the “Outstanding Leadership” award from the Tucson/Pima County Women’s Commission, and was named a “40 Under 40” by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.