April 16, 2019
Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Courts: What You Need to Know
It’s something that gets swept under the carpet in too many parts of society. That said, the Pennsylvania criminal justice system acknowledges it. In fact, if you’re accused of a crime and suffer from mental illness, your case could go to the Commonwealth’s Mental Health Court system.
The concept of Adult Mental Health Courts began in 2001 in Alleghany County. Luzerne County started its Mental Health Court in 2009 and has a special track for veterans accused of crimes.
Mental Health Court falls under the definition of a Specialty Court and follows specified criteria. You could be eligible for Mental Health Court if you have a documented diagnosis of:
- Mental illness
- Mental disability
- Dual diagnosis with drugs and alcohol, with mental health being primary
In the meantime, you should know that eligibility requirements vary from county to county. Although it’s a bit of a distance, Delaware Mental Health Court has more specific requirements when it comes to eligibility. There, you can’t qualify for the program unless you suffer from a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major mood disorder, psychoses NOS, or borderline personality disorder.
It may actually be the nature of your crime that results in your ineligibility. For example, cases of a violent nature are generally reviewed on a case by case basis in Luzerne County. Meanwhile, some other counties are quite specific concerning what crimes will exclude you from Mental Health Court.
Advantages of Mental Health Courts
In 2014, Lackawanna County put together a report regarding services for persons with mental illness within the criminal justice system. It offers some explanation regarding the purpose of Mental Health Courts. Entry into Mental Health Court happens after a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty.
All things considered, you may know someone who benefited from Mental Health Court. It might seem most attractive that your friend or acquaintance avoided incarceration. However, that doesn’t mean that the court won’t impose other expectations on you.
For example, you should know that intensive team-based supervision represents a critical aspect of Mental Health Courts. A treatment plan for your mental illness proves important as well. This may be done on an inpatient or residential program.
Some conditions often apply when you are part of the Mental Health Court system. If you have issues with substance abuse, you will need to submit to regular screening tests.
The goal of compliance monitoring and treatment is to prevent repeated incidences of crime. When you meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney, you should discuss your mental health issues. It could be that you could personally benefit from Mental Health Court.
Have you been accused of a crime? Whether you suffer from a mental illness or not, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to assist you. Contact Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano to schedule an appointment.