Mental Health Courts: A ‘humane mechanism’ for people with mental illness

By Phyllis Hanlon
February 4th, 2022

In the late 1980s, Janet Reno, then state attorney for Miami Dade County, Florida, founded the first drug court to address the underlying issues that repeatedly brought individuals into the criminal justice system. That model led to the creation of mental health courts, which aim to support, assist and encourage offenders with mental illness and divert them from incarceration.

According to retired District Court Judge Mary Hogan Sullivan, former specialty court director for the District Court who continues to consult with specialty courts, mental health courts use a multi-disciplinary team approach. Teams comprise a judge, probation officer, defense attorney, prosecutor and, most importantly, a clinician, usually a LICSW, she said. Team ...

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