The Monroe County Mental Health Court
The Monroe County Mental Health Court is a problem-solving court focused on reducing recidivism and promoting long-term stability through treatment for people with mental health issues involved in the criminal justice system. Participants in the court are defendants with felony-level criminal charges, or a petition to revoke probation on a felony conviction, who have a diagnosed chronic mental illness.
In order to be eligible for the Monroe County Mental Health Court, a defendant must have pending felony charges, or a pending petition to revoke a suspended sentence for a felony case. The Mental Health Court grant also requires that the defendant:
- Be a Monroe County resident
- Be eligible for public health benefits such as Medicaid, Medicare, or Veteran’s benefits; or have health benefits coverage through private insurance
- Have a documented chronic mental illness
- Have a history or current need for medication or treatment
- Demonstrate a logical nexus between his/her illness and criminal conduct, and
- Have an illness that can be treated in the local community, or through short-term hospitalization.
How to Refer a Defendant to the Mental Health Court
If a prosecutor, judge, defense attorney, or treatment provider wish to refer a felony defendant to the Mental Health Court Team for an eligibility assessment, he/she must complete a Mental Health Court Referral Form and submit that form to the Monroe County Probation Department. The Mental Health Court Team is a multi-disciplinary team whose membership includes the judge presiding over the Mental Health Court, a deputy prosecutor, a deputy public defender, representatives from the probation department, the Jail Diversion Coordinator, the Recovery Coach, and other representatives from Centerstone (local mental health treatment provider). The Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office reserves the right to disqualify any candidate from consideration. A probation officer will then conduct an initial assessment, either in the community or in the Monroe County Jail. The defendant is required to sign a Release of Information for all current and previous treatment providers. The probation officer will review medical records and interview the defendant. The Jail Diversion Coordinator and Recovery Coach may also meet with the referred defendant to gather additional information to assist the Mental Health Court Team in reviewing the defendant’s case.
The Jail Diversion Coordinator is a psychologist who performs evaluations at the Monroe County Correctional Center and/or elsewhere in the community. The Jail Diversion Coordinator reports information to the Mental Health Court Team and assists in reviewing the case.
The Recovery Coach is a member of the Mental Health Court Team from Centerstone (local mental health provider) who may meet with a referred defendant to assess their current engagement in treatment. Once accepted into the program, the Recovery Coach works with program participants to help connect them to needed services in the community. The Recovery Coach is generally knowledgeable about mental health, addictions, and other issues such as access to housing, and public benefits such as Medicaid and Social Security.
Once the initial assessment has been completed, and the necessary treatment records are secured, the defendant’s case is considered by the Mental Health Court Team (MHCT). The team considers the eligibility factors and any circumstance unique to the case. Acceptance into the Mental Health Court is at the discretion of the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor may refuse to allow the defendant’s participation in the Mental Health Court due to considerations such as the threat to the safety of the community, or the danger to a particular victim, among other concerns.
Factors that the Mental Health Court Team (MHCT) may considers include the following:
- A diagnosis of a chronic mental illness.
- A logical nexus between the diagnosis and the charged offense
- Assessment of treatment history
- Likelihood of responsiveness to treatment
- Nature of the offense
- Public safety of the community
- Criminal/probation history of the defendant
- Victim input
- Likelihood that diversion will reduce recidivism
- Best interests of the defendant
If the Mental Health Court Team recommends that a defendant be accepted into the Mental Health Court, the defendant must plead guilty to the charged offense(s) under a special problem-solving court agreement. This includes an admission by the defendant to the facts that make him or her guilty of hte offense. Mental Health Court participants are typically required to:
- Be supervised by the court and a probation officer
- Attend biweekly court sessions
- Comply with all directives from treatment providers
- Comply with medication orders
- Maintain stable housing
- Maintain sobriety and be tested for alcohol or substances, if appropriate
- Maintain employment, if appropriate
- Pay restitution, if appropriate
- Meet regularly with their Recovery Coach
- Commit no further criminal offenses
Once accepted into the Mental Health Court, defendants are supervised by the Recovery Coach, and a probation officer, both of whom report back to the Mental Health Court Team (MHCT) on his/her progress. The MHCT makes recommendations to the Mental Health Court Judge, who ultimately is responsible for supervising the defendant.
Defendants who achieve goals set by them and the Recovery Coach receive incentives, such as vouchers for drug screens, certificates of completion, and group recognition. Participants who successfully complete two years of supervision may either have their charges dismissed, or avoid the imposition of a sentence.
Defendants who violate the terms of their treatment agreement receive sanctions, such as road crew, community service, brief periods of incarceration, or termination from the Mental Health Court. Since the defendant entered a plea of guilty upon admission into the Mental Health Court, the court may move immediately to the sentencing phase. The court may order the defendant to serve a sentence in jail, prison, or any other available sentencing option.
Mental Health Court Forms: