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Mental Health Courts January 17, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Uncategorized.
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Mental health courts link offenders who would ordinarily be prison-bound to long-term community-based treatment. They rely on mental health assessments, individualized treatment plans, and ongoing judicial monitoring to address both the mental health needs of offenders and public safety concerns of communities. 

Mental health courts share characteristics with Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), jail diversion programs, specialized probation and parole caseloads, and a host of other collaborative initiatives intended to address the significant over-representation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

In the early 1980s, Judge Evan Dee Goodman helped establish a court exclusively to deal with mental health matters at Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis. This court was a dual purpose court. It to handled the probate court needs of people needing to be on a civil commitment for psychiatric treatment and it established a docket to deal with cases of the mentally ill offender who had been arrested on minor charges. This was necessary as the mentally ill were frequently arrested and had charges pending when the treatment providers sought a civil commitment to send their patient for long term psychiatric treatment. Judge Goodman’s court at Wishard Hospital could serve both purposes. The probate part of the mental health court would handle the civil commitment. The criminal docket of the mental health court could handle the arrest charges. The criminal charges could be put on diversion, or hold, allowing the patient’s release from jail custody. The civil commitment would then become effective and the patient could be sent to a state hospital for treatment. Judge Goodman would schedule periodic hearings to learn of the patient’s progress. If warranted, the criminal charges were dismissed, but the patient still had obligations to the civil commitment.

In addition to arranging inpatient treatment, Judge Goodman often put defendants on diversion, or on an outpatient commitment, and ordered them into outpatient treatment. Judge Goodman would have periodic hearings to determine the patient’s compliance with the treatment plan. Patients who did not follow the treatment plan faced sanctions, a modification of the plan, or if they were on diversion their original charge could be set for trial.

Judge Goodman’s concept and the original mental health court were dissolved in the early 1990s.

In the mid-1990s, many of the professional mental health workers who had worked with Judge Goodman sought to re-establish a mental health court in Indianapolis. Representatives of the county’s mental health service providers and other stake holders began meeting weekly. After a couple years of lobbying local authorities the in Marion County, Indiana, the mental health court began as a formal program in 1996. Many consider this to be the nation’s first mental-health court in this second wave of mental health court initiatives. Since the PAIR Program did not operate with any new funds, there was not much scholarly research and therefore the accomplishments of Judge Goodman and the PAIR Program are frequently overlooked. The current PAIR Program is a comprehensive pretrial, post-booking diversion system for mentally ill offenders. A program launched in Broward County, Florida was the first court, to be recognized and published as a specialized mental-health court. Overseen by Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, the Broward County Mental Health Court was launched in 1997, partially in response to a series of suicides of people with mental illness in the county jail.

Shortly after the establishment of the Broward County Mental Health Court, other mental health courts began to open in jurisdictions around the U.S., launched by practitioners who believed that standard punishments were ineffective when applied to the mentally ill.  In Alaska, for example, the state’s first mental health court (established in Anchorage in 1998) was spearheaded by Judge Stephanie Rhoades, who felt probation alone was inadequate. “I started seeing a lot of people in criminal misdemeanors who were cycling through the system and who simply did not understand their probation conditions or what they were doing in jail. I saw police arresting people in order to get them help. I felt there had to be a better solution,” she explained in an interview. Mental health courts were also inspired by the movement to develop other problem-solving courts, such as drug courts, domestic violence courts, community courts and parole reentry courts. The overarching motivation behind the development of these courts was rising caseloads and increasing frustration — both among the public and among system players — with the standard approach to case processing and case outcomes in state courts. In February 2001, the first juvenile mental-health court opened in Santa Clara, California.

Since 2000, the number of mental health courts has expanded rapidly. There are an estimated 150 courts in the U.S. I was “processed” through my involuntary commitment through King County’s (Washington State) court, one of the first in the nation. Snohomish County (my county in Washington State) just opened theirs in October 2012.

(From Wikipedia)

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