Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Mental Health Common Pleas Court

A money-saving idea?

With the resounding 2007 defeat of the Super-Sized Jail Tax, voices of innovation are finally being heard at the County Courthouse. Judge Skip West is one of those voices of progress. This year, because of Judge West, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court is seeking to implement a Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Court (SAMI) to develop innovative and effective solutions to those mentally ill or chemically dependant repeatedly clogging courts and jails. COAST is glad the defeat of the Super Sized Jail Tax is yielding creative problem solving. The SAMI will be funded from proceeds of the scaled back levy that used to fund the Drake Center. The major portion of that levy is going away due to COAST’s efforts.

Relying on Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT), this SAMI project is a collaborative partnership between the criminal justice system, the mental health system, consumers and their families concerning felony level offenders with mental illness and substance use disorders. Goals of this project include establishing pretrial screening, assessment, pre-adjudication diversion, close supervision of offenders, and engaging the community in addressing and building strong links to citizens, schools, and community groups with respect to felony offenders suffering from persistent mental illness and/or substance abuse. Hamilton County has three successful related programs including the misdemeanor mental health court project, the felony drug treatment court, and the Mentally Disabled Probation Specialized Unit (MDO) program.

Pretrial services working in conjunction with The Court Clinic, a State of Ohio certified Forensic Center, will help to identify and assess potential participants for the program. Once identified, assessed for eligibility, and transferred into the program, participants will be assigned to a case manager from Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS) who will perform a service assessment identifying the participant’s needs. Appropriate services will then be provided to the participant.


  1. People who suffer from mental illness spend a great deal of time in jail, only to be released without appropriate treatment and supervision. This seems like a very reasonable community investment for those who are charged with felony level offenses. We need to remember, mental illness and substance use does not discrimate between its victims. It may be your family member or friend that has the unique experience in the criminal justice system due to the associated behaviors.

  2. I applaud COAST for recognizing Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services and their work on behalf of people with mental illnesses, and encourage those who support GCB's efforts to donate to the agency:


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