How Does Mental Health Court Work?
Informed Choice and Voluntary Participation
Mental Health Court is a voluntary alternative to the traditional disposition of criminal charges. It is only for defendants who are severely and persistently mentally ill and who have been arrested for a crime.
Each defendant will be assigned a defense attorney at the outset of the criminal case. The first step in considering a defendant for Mental Health Court is completion of a Screening Form, which briefly summarizes the defendant’s mental health history, and signing an Authorization for Release of Confidential Information Form. Then a clinical assessment/evaluation is done to determine the defendant’s diagnosis. For a defendant who has a substance abuse addiction, the assessment will need to wait until the defendant is clear from drugs and alcohol.
At any time in the process, a defendant may request to no longer be considered for Mental Health Court. Defense counsel may request a competency evaluation of the defendant whenever counsel is concerned about a defendant’s legal competency.
If the defendant is in jail unable to post bail, the Court will seriously consider Pre-Trial Release on specific terms and conditions of medication compliance and treatment. The Court will not release a defendant ROR who is in need of medication, but is not taking it, or who does not have a safe stable residence. The Mental Health Court Team will work diligently to promptly arrange support services so that an incarcerated defendant may be released as soon as a plan is in place and the defendant agrees to comply with it
The defense attorney will be present at all Mental Health Court Team discussions concerning the client and included in all email and other communications concerning the case. In addition, a defense attorney is a member of the Mental Health Court Team, and will represent all participants at Team meetings and Court sessions.
If the Team and Court determine that the defendant is eligible for Mental Health Court, an individualized Treatment Plan will be prepared. The defense attorney and defendant will review the Treatment Plan. If the defendant agrees with it, he/she will sign a detailed Mental Health Court Participant Contract agreeing to medication and treatment compliance. The Contract will include a statement regarding what will happen with the criminal case if the defendant completes Mental Health Court, and what may happen if he/she does not complete it.