Five Mental Health Treatment Court pilot programs underway

January 17, 2023

Five Mental Health Treatment Court pilot programs have recently been created, Chief Justice Mike Randolph told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary A Committees at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Pilot programs are underway in the First, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh and Fourteenth Circuit Court Districts, for eligible defendants who commit non-violent crimes and are assessed with a mental illness, Director of Intervention Courts Pam Holmes told legislators.

A Mental Health Treatment Court uses a problem-solving approach in lieu of more traditional court procedures for non-violent offenders who have been screened and diagnosed with mental illnesses. The program includes screening, clinical assessment, education, referral for treatment, counseling and rehabilitative care, service coordination and case management.

“Unquestionably, we are committed to expanding,” Chief Justice Randolph told legislators. “We are hopeful that it will provide a great improvement for those defendants with mental illness as an alternative to long-term incarceration.”

The Legislature funded the five pilot programs in the 2023 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2022. The Administrative Office of Courts and local courts spent the past six months organizing the new courts, hiring staff as needed and developing operational materials.

“Collaboration among the criminal justice, mental health, substance-abuse treatment and related community service programs and agencies will drive the success of the mental health treatment courts and the participants being served,” Holmes said.