Mental Health Court

Implementation of Mental Health Courts as a possible way forward.

By Corey Gavin

June 14, 2017

According to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, in 2005 more than half of all prison and jail inmates had a mental health problem; 56% in State Prisons, 45% in Federal Prisons and 64% in local jails.  This is statistically significant when taking into account that, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Mental Illness Surveillance Report, only 25% of the US population have a mental illness.

The report also indicated the state prisoners with mental health disorders were more likely to receive longer sentences than those without and were twice as likely to be injured in fights as those without.  They were also more likely to be cited for rule violations.

A growing answer to this problem is the implementation of Mental Health Courts.  In the state of Michigan, the number of these courts in existence has grown from 8 in 2012 to 23 in 2015.  According to a Michigan Courts Problem-Solving Courts Publication, “The Michigan mental health courts (MHCs) target offenders who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbance, or a developmental disability.  MHCs offer eligible offenders the opportunity to participate in a court-based treatment program to address their mental illness instead of sentencing them to lengthy jail or prison terms.”

The performance measures for those in the Michigan MHC program in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 had a completion rate of 49% with 27% of them improving their education level, 43% improving employment status, 99% improving their mental health status, 97% improving Quality of Life and 92% being compliant with medication.  There was a 13% decrease in recidivism after two years of graduating the MHC and a 13% decrease after four years as compared to those with mental health disorders released from incarceration who did not participate in the MHC.

Currently, Kent County Courts System is conducting a study to be completed by September 2017 to determine the benefits of implementing an MHC in the county.  It is my opinion, with all the data we have available to us that it is imperative that this implementation goes forward.  I urge people who have been affected by mental health disorders or have loved ones who have to write or call their representatives and encourage them to see that this happens.  As always thank you for reading.

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