Mental Health Courts

The Mental Health Courts in Montgomery County's Circuit and District Courts, which opened in December 2016 and January 2017 respectively, were championed by State's Attorney John McCarthy. These problem-solving courts divert eligible defendants who have committed low-level crimes because of a mental illness into treatment and away from jail – improving public safety by reducing recidivism, and helping participants regain productive lives. Participation is voluntary. Defendants who choose not to participate or who are not approved go through the regular criminal justice process.

Like the nation, Montgomery County has seen a substantial increase in recent years in the number of people arrested who need immediate mental health care. About 19% of male and 28% of female inmates in the County jail have a serious and persistent mental illness such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or clinical depression. Many of these individuals have been arrested multiple times for the same minor offenses, typically disorderly conduct, vandalism, public urination, shoplifting and theft. Mental Health Courts help break this cycle of repeated arrests by addressing the cause of the criminal behavior.

A blue-ribbon task force chaired by Phil Andrews in 2015, Director of Crime Prevention Initiatives for the State's Attorney's Office and a former chair of the County Council's Public Safety Committee, developed recommendations that became the blueprint for the County's Mental Health Courts.

Eligibility for Mental Health Court

Participants in mental health court must be 18 or older, residents of Montgomery County, determined to be competent, assessed to be impaired by a mental illness, and charged with an offense connected to or caused by their mental illness.

Referrals to Mental Health Court and Selection Process

There is no restriction on who may refer a defendant to Mental Health Court. The Mental Health Court Coordinator takes the lead in contacting the defendant's attorney, prosecutors, and mental health clinicians with the County's Health and Human Services Department to determine whether the candidate wants to participate, whether the State's Attorney's Office approves of the candidate's participation (given current charges and any criminal history), and whether the candidate has a documented mental illness that influenced the criminal behavior. The Mental Health Court team evaluates the information and makes a recommendation to the Mental Health Court Judge. Participants who successfully complete Mental Health Court have their charges reduced or dropped.

Requirements for Successful Completion of Mental Health Court

To graduate from Mental Health Court, participants must achieve the goals of their individualized treatment plan, which include taking all prescribed medication, no substance abuse (in some cases, no substance use), stability, participation in therapy, compliance with directives, living in court-approved housing, and employment or the ability to meet their daily needs. The program normally takes about 18 months to complete.

The following assistant state's attorney's serve as liaisons to the Mental Health Courts, and can be contacted regarding referrals or operating procedures:

Contact the Mental Health Courts Staff