It will work with defendants who commit misdemeanors due to their mental health issues.
Frederick, Md (KM) Frederick County will begin operating a Mental Health Court in the fall. State’s Attorney Charlie Smith says this project has been a passion of his for many years, due to the fact that a lot of these defendants who suffer from mental health issues continue to commit crimes.
“This isn’t for felonies or serious offenders. This is for low level offenders we see time and time again,” he says. “The people that we arrest, incarcerate, they come back, they re-offend. So they’re committing crimes like trespass, urinating in public and disorderly conduct. But the reason they’re committing these offenses is they have severe mental health issues that they’re dealing with.”
Smith says this Mental Health Court will be working to get them the help they need. “They’re going to have to plead guilty. And once they do, they go into the Mental Health Court, similar to what we have with our Drug Treatment Court. At that point in time, if they’re a first time offender, they’ll do a 12-month program. If they’re a repeat offender, they’ll do an 18-month program,” he says.
The defendants will work with a clinician who will put them into a treatment plan. After they complete the plan, they will be released, and, hopefully, become productive, law abiding citizens, Smith says..
He also says there’s a way to detect if a defendant is faking a mental health problem. “We’re talking about someone whose going to diagnose them. This is going to be a clinician that’s hired that works specifically on the mental health court. So this mental health coordinator and clinician is going to be a professional. So they’re gong to know whose feigning and whose not, and they’re going to know whose going to be successful and whose not,” he says.
The County was given approval on Monday, July 8th to set up this Mental Health Court by the Maryland Court of Appeals. . The State of Maryland is also providing the county with a $100,000 grant for the first fiscal year of operations. The funds will be used to hire a full time Mental Health Coordinator, and a part time panel public defender.
The Mental Health Court will be under the Frederick County District Court.
Smith says he’s hoping the court will provide “treatment and accountability so the offenders can be rehabilitated while they’re in our community.”
By Kevin McManus