What Is a Mental Health Court?
Mental Health Courts are specialized to meaningfully respond to defendants with mental illness. Addressing both the treatment needs of defendants with mental illness and the public safety concerns of communities, mental health courts link mentally ill defendants to long-term Court-supervised community-based treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
In April 2005 Judge Penelope D. Clute was selected to establish a Mental Health Court as a special part of Plattsburgh City Court. There were only five Mental Health Courts in New York State, and Plattsburgh was very fortunate to be one of four added in 2005.
The clientele of a “Mental Health Court” are persons arrested for crimes who are severely and persistently mentally ill. The goals of Mental Health Courts include furthering the recovery of mentally ill offenders by using the power of the Court for medication compliance and engagement in treatment. When this is achieved, the number of re-arrests, as well as the use of the high-cost settings of jail and the hospital can all be reduced. These are replaced by on-going court supervision and links to community-based treatment.
A Mental Health Court is for those who are the hardest to serve – in both the mental health and criminal justice systems. This new concept is a collaboration among criminal justice, mental health professionals and others in the community who have a role in treating, assisting and housing the mentally ill offender. Judge Clute has a continuing role in monitoring each defendant’s compliance with treatment and medication.
Every defendant who is in Mental Health Court is court-ordered to comply with prescribed medication and all treatment recommendations. Each defendant in Mental Health Court signs a Participant Contract and Terms and Conditions of Probation agreeing to medication and treatment compliance.
The goals of the Plattsburgh Mental Health Court are to:
A planning team of mental health and criminal justice professionals worked with Judge Clute for eight months to design the process and opportunities of the Plattsburgh Mental Health Court. We all recognized that for the Mental Health Court to work, it will take a team approach, sharing information and working towards the same objectives. Plattsburgh’s Mental Health Court can be a model for a rural area, as we are the smallest city in the state to be given this opportunity. We look forward to working together in creating this new approach to handling criminal cases of mentally ill offenders.
- Improve public safety
- Improve court’s ability to identify, assess and monitor offenders with mental illness
- Reduce length of time in jail or prison for offenders with serious and persistent mental illness
- Improve quality of life for people with serious and persistent mental illness
- Improve coordination between the mental health and criminal justice systems
- Use overtaxed criminal justice resources more efficiently