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Some people who commit crimes can seek mental health or intellectual disability services as a substitute for being imprisoned.
Hiring the right attorney can help determine whether a client fits the guidelines for these kinds of programs and applying successfully to the program.
As the links between mental illness and arrest become clearer to the courts, the judicial system tries to address these issues in meaningful ways.
1. What Is the First Judicial District Mental Health Court?
The First Judicial District Mental Health Court (FJDMHC) has jurisdiction within the City and County of Philadelphia.
The program tries to help non-violent offenders with mental health issues or co-occurring disorders become more productive citizens.
Also, rather than simply incarcerate someone and increase the jail population, the program hopes to balance justice, treatment, and public safety.
2. What Does The Re-entry Program Do?
In Philadelphia, eligible defendants may be able to obtain treatment for mental illnesses as well as housing and support services.
Providing a supervised community treatment setting helps reduce the likelihood of the person committing another crime in the future.
By creating ongoing communication between the criminal justice and mental health systems, the program protects public safety by reducing the causes of crime.
3. Who Is Eligible For The Mental Health Court Program?
Qualified candidates for the FJDMHC program are either serving a sentence for a felony case or awaiting sentencing. The candidates are nearly always charged or convicted of non-violent crimes..
Most often, the appropriate candidates are ones whose charges and criminal history mitigate an incarceration period to a probation period. However, this is not true in every case.
To qualify, the defendant must be eligible for Intensive Case Management services by meeting the medical necessity criteria.
These include being diagnosed with a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and meeting other medical criteria.
Further, the individual requesting admission to the program must be a Philadelphia County resident who requires Medicaid and has at least eighteen more months of court supervision as part of their sentence.
Not only must participants follow any court-imposed rules, but they must also be willing to be supervised through the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services Targeted Case Management Unit (DBH/IDS).
They must be committed and interested in engaging in treatment.
4. What Is A Serious Mental Illness?
A Serious Mental Illness (SMI) often requires medication to control it. Some examples of an SMI are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
5. Why Is The Mental Health Court Program Valuable?
While some may see the FJDMHC program as a way to keep from being in prison, it intends to address incarceration data regarding repeat offenses.
The federal court system released a document detailing the factors that contribute to people with SMIs being subjected to the prison system.
Although the courts listed five reasons that mentally ill people may be more likely to be incarcerated, two are directly addressed by the FJDMHC program.
First, the shift from hospitals to community health centers made it difficult for those most in need to obtain care.
Second, the services available often provide only for those with a single health issue by separating mental health and intellectual disability from drug and alcohol abuse.
Many problems, however, exist together. For example, someone with depression may self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs.
Since many mental health and drug treatment programs start by requiring someone to abstain from substance abuse, this makes it difficult for people who have co-occurring problems since they are abusing the substances precisely because of their SMI.
Therefore, police are most likely to see these people first when they are arrested for drug possession or other crimes associated with the drug dependency that helps them with their mental health disorder.
6. What Does A Participant Have To Do?
Participants in the program agree to undergo personalized treatment that coordinates mental health services between the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Court with the criminal court’s supervisions.
The individualized plan consists of group counseling, medication, community support services, and case management by DBH/IDS.
Finally, chosen participants agree to show up to court appearances that monitor their continued compliance with the program.
7. How Can Having An Attorney Help?
Being arrested for a crime scares anyone. For those suffering from mental illness, the arrest and arraignment process can trigger the mental health issues.
Combining this with the problems associated with drug withdrawal, a defendant may act out or get into trouble while incarcerated.
People with mental health issues might also have trouble navigating some of the barriers to treatment like initial appointments, paperwork, applications, and funding issues.
An attorney can begin advocating for the defendant immediately. This means that part of the defense includes the discussion of the SMI or addiction for which the person requires help to keep them from being arrested in the future.
Contact Marni Jo Snyder Today
Looking for a committed defense counsel? Contact the offices of Marni Jo Snyder today for a free consultation at 215-515-3360.