The Comprehensive Mental Health Court was developed in response to the growing number of serious mentally ill people coming into contact with the criminal justice system. The focus of the Comprehensive Mental Health Court is to identify those eligible for treatment, work collaboratively with service agencies to provide treatment and services, and oversee compliance with treatment orders. This approach avoids additional civil commitments and arrests and reduces the costs associated with incarceration.
Pre-Screen Evaluations - when a defendant has committed a misdemeanor, defense may decide to motion the court for a prescreen evaluation. A screening DOES NOT determine competency, but whether more evaluation is needed. Once a prescreen is ordered, it is faxed to the Forensic Services Unit of the Comprehensive Mental Health Court (CMHC)Order received:
In the event that a defendant (in-custody OR out-of-custody) is still considered as incompetent yet not restorable within the statutory time limits, he/she may meet the criteria for civil commitment. The County Attorney's office has 24-48 hours to file a civil commitment petition. The defendant is transported to Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center for evaluation and treatment. The criminal charges are dismissed upon the defendant arriving at Desert Vista either by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) or by self-surrenders.
If a mentally ill individual does not wish to seek treatment or wishes to terminate treatment against medical advice, the individual may find oneself in court, going through a process designed to provide treatment pursuant to a court order. The Court may order that the person be committed to a suitable treatment facility. The length of the Order for Treatment will not exceed one year and the patient is entitled to a period of mandatory local treatment for at least 25 days at one of several mental health treatment agencies. Prior to such process, the Court must find that the person, as a result of a mental disorder, meets at least one of the following four criteria:
If the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the patient is suffering a mental disorder and meets one or more of the four criteria, the Court will enter an Order for Treatment. The length and terms will vary. Once the court ordered treatment expires, the patient may be unconditionally released by the treating agency. If further in-patient treatment is indicated, the patient must be re-petitioned to repeat the process outlined above. Due to the chronic nature of many mental illnesses, patients do not always stay in treatment or even improve. Such is the "revolving door" stereotype of the mental health treatment system.
The Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI)-Probation Violation Court was established to monitor and treat the seriously mentally ill. The goal of the Court is to problem solve collaboratively with treatment providers and offer tools (review hearings, Mental Health Court contracts, etc.) to increase the probability of success for a SMI defendant on probation. Whenever possible, the Court offers the potential for SMI defendants to earn misdemeanors and expedite release from custody (when appropriate) directly to treatment as approved by the Adult Probation Department and the Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA).