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Q) What is mental health court
The traditional way to deal with a person who has been charged with a crime is to go to trial
. If the person is found guilty at trial, the person usually goes to jail or prison for months, years, decades, or possibly the rest of their lives. Statistically, a conviction occurs about 90% of the time when people go to trial most places in the U.S.
A mental health court program ("MHC") is generally referred to as a "pre-trial diversion" or "alternative to trial" program. Mental health court assists some people who have a mental health diagnosis to avoid going to trial. A mental health diagnosis would be most commonly schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bi-polar, PTSD, major depressive disorder, etc. The goal is to help the participants to effectively deal with their mental health disorder, which is seen as the root cause of why they got in trouble in the first place.
Generally, MHC requires a person to be competent to stand trial
; attend regular progress meetings with the court; stay out of trouble; follows their doctor's instructions and comply with prescribed medication; attend treatment programs or therapy, etc. The court has services available to assist the participants with stable housing and other resources which are often needed.
If the participant is successful in the MHC program, the charges against that person are usually dropped, reduced in severity, or some other resolution other than going to jail is reached. This is often a better outcome for many people who are charged with a crime, and the person gets a lot out of the program, too.
If you or someone you know has been invited to attend MHC instead of going to trial, I would give it serious consideration. One of the local courts where I practice frequently has a MHC program, and it has helped a lot of my clients.
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