Miami County starts mental health initiative in court system

TROY — Miami County is implementing its first Mental Health Court.

The first docket for the specialty court was held June 9 in county Common Pleas Court before Judge Stacy Wall. The county has had a specialty Drug Court for several years.

Wall said she explored the Ohio Supreme Court requirements for Mental Health Courts and visited those in Delaware and Montgomery counties during the more than eight months of working on the court development.

The court is voluntary and intended for people charged with felony offenses who have been diagnosed with certain mental health disorders amenable to treatment. Participants can be referred from several sources.

Among criteria for participants will be:

- The offender is charged with a non-violent felony.

- The offense is an F-3, F-4 or F-5 level (not the most serious levels of felonies).

- The offender cannot face a sexually oriented offense or have a status of sex offender.

- The offender is a county resident.

- The offender’s mental health disorder was a factor in the behavior that resulted in the charge(s) and, unless treated, the disorder is likely to contribute to future criminal actions.

- The offender has a pattern of severe and persistent mental illness.

- The offender is appropriate for care available in the community.

More information on the Mental Health Court is available on the Common Pleas Court’s website, under Judge Wall’s forms.

Those chosen to participate in the court must have mental health issues as their primary diagnosis. While many coming through the court may have dual mental health and drug abuse issues, the new court is for those with mental health as the primary concern. If the person’s diagnosis is primarily drug abuse and some mental health, they would be considered for the drug court.

“The focus is recidivism. We don’t want these people who have true mental health diagnoses to reoffend because the mental health is their driving issue,” Wall said.

The program will be individualized for each mental health court participant. The court will meet every other Thursday at noon with participants receiving homework assignments.

They also will interact regularly with their probation officer to help build trust and ensure issues specific to the participant are being addressed. Those issues might include taking medication as required, securing transportation or housing and meeting other needs.

An advisory committee representing the jail, treatment providers, Job and Family Services and other resources for the court will meet quarterly to help oversee the court, while a treatment team will work with participants.

Sheriff Dave Duchak said the specialty court is a continuing collaborative effort to help address the mental health crisis locally.

He credited Wall for her efforts to create the court, including spending time visiting the other courts.

“I think this will greatly assist with diverting those individuals who are not threats to public safety into the proper treatment setting, which most of the time is not jail. Judge Wall has placed many guidelines to ensure compliance of those defendants who enter the program.,” Duchak said.

“Mental health has and continues to be a large issue to tackle for the criminal justice system and this is one more large tool now available in the Common Pleas Court to assist with addressing the problem,” he said.

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