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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Spring 2011


According to Governor Jack Markell:

"We encourage employees to work across state agencies. This team has shown exemplary efforts in finding efficiencies and extending better services to Delawareans in need. The Mental Health Court team proved that collaboration can produce tangible results, and in this case, a team found ways to save money and provide self-sufficiency for a special population of people that needed help."

The New Castle County Superior Court Mental Health Court was selected as the 2010 winner of the Governor's Team Excellence Award. The 18-member team which won the award is headed by Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden and, in addition to Superior Court employees, includes employees from the Department of Health and Social Services/Treatment Access Center (TASC), the Department of Correction/Office of Probation and Parole, the Office of the Public Defender and the Delaware Department of Justice.

The award is given to encourage teamwork by recognizing groups of state employees for their efforts to use continuous quality improvement tools to excel in leadership, team dynamics and communication to produce superior customer service and tangible results. The Mental Health Court team was selected from among 17 applicants nominated for the award. Among the team's achievements were the development of the first felony mental health court in Delaware and use of an innovative and comprehensive collaborative cross-agency approach to improve outcomes for justice-involved individuals with mental health issues, while creating cost savings for the State.

The New Castle County Superior Court Mental Health Court was launched in 2008 to address the many probationers who were trapped in a cycle of repeatedly violating probation and being jailed as the result of untreated mental illnesses. Working with the Treatment Access Center and Probation and Parole, the Superior Court went on to develop a pilot post-adjudication Mental Health Court which works with probationers to access treatment and services, and assist them in addressing their mental illnesses and successfully meeting the requirements of their probation.

The Court process begins with an intake proceeding during which the goals and requirements of the program are explained and the judge ascertains whether the defendant is committed to succeeding on probation and addressing his or her mental health (and, as is often the case, addiction issues). Status conferences with TASC workers and Probation and Parole officers provide reports on the defendant's progress, note areas where he or she needs improvement, and suggest different treatment methods to meet the individual needs of the probationer. Depending on what the TASC workers and Probation and Parole officers tell the judge, the defendant may be admonished for missing doctor's appointments, congratulated on taking his or her medications on a regular schedule for two weeks straight, or provided with additional assistance, such as help in obtaining housing. According to President Judge James T. Vaughn, Jr. "the Mental Health Court is a critical first step in finding ways to assist mentally-ill offenders and to change the ways that the criminal justice system handles such individuals."

Superior Court Mental Health Court
Pictured (from left to right) at the Award Presentation Ceremony, Commissioner Carl Danberg (Corrections), Secretary Rita Landgraf (Department of Health & Social Services), Governor Jack Markell, Judge Jan Jurden, President Judge James T. Vaughn, Jr., and Secretary Vivian Rapposelli (Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families)