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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Spring 2011


"One of the goals of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation. The expansion of the Mental Health Court program into Kent and Sussex Counties will give the Court of Common Pleas additional means to encourage offenders to participate in various counseling programs. The ultimate goal is for people to be well and refrain from committing new offenses."

Court of Common Pleas Judges Anne Hartnett Reigle and Kenneth S. Clark, Jr.

The Court of Common Pleas established the first Mental Health Court in the State of Delaware in 2003 which continues to operate successfully today. The New Castle County Mental Health Court follows a diversion model, similar to the existing drug court model. The goal of the Mental Health Court is to reduce recidivism rates by connecting the individual with effective treatment for their underlying mental health needs through continuous judicial oversight and intensive case management. Approximately 250 cases have been referred to New Castle County Mental Health Court since its inception. Eightynine percent of the individuals who successfully completed the program incurred no new convictions within six months of graduation.

With the assistance of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Court of Common Pleas received a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant to expand the court to Kent and Sussex Counties. During the initial planning process, Court of Common Pleas judges traveled to Brooklyn, New York to observe the Brooklyn Mental Health Court (which employs a traditional diversionary model) and ultimately decided to apply Brooklyn's approach to the new Mental Health Courts in the lower two counties. This traditional model provides for a Clinical Care Manager housed within the court to allow for fluid communication between the various participants and treatment providers. In addition, the courts will also add a post-adjudication track for participants who are already sentenced to probation.

The Byrne Grant funding provided access to contractual Clinical Care Managers in both Kent and Sussex Counties. The Clinical Care Manager will be present in Mental Health Court and available to evaluate potential participants to ensure appropriate enrollment in the Mental Health Court; provide case management; coordinate service with local community treatment organizations; and act as a liaison between the participants, the Court and other Mental Health Court team members.

By identifying and diverting involved individuals in the justice system with mental health issues away from the criminal justice system and into proper treatment, the goal of the Court of Common Pleas' Mental Health Court expansion is to improve the criminal justice systems' response to mental illness in the two southern counties. The intention of this approach is to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

"The Mental Health Court Program has been positively received by offenders, who realize that they have problems and genuinely want help."

Judge Reigle

"I am pleased that the State has dedicated resources to divert offenders from the criminal justice system and help them get the mental health counseling and medications that they need to be productive members of society."

Judge Clark