SAN DIEGO–District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis participated in the inaugural graduation of Behavioral Health Court, a collaborative court program that provides qualifying mentally ill offenders with individual treatment, goals and supervision rather than jail time.
The District Attorney’s Office together with the San Diego Superior Court, Public Defender’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department, San Diego City Attorney’s Office, County Behavioral Health Services and Exodus Recovery promote public safety measures and help in the recovery of eligible offenders for up to three years before the defendants graduate and eventually have their cases dismissed by the court.
“Much like Drug Court, participants in Behavioral Health Court are held accountable for their actions up front but are then given the services they need to change their behavior,” DA Dumanis said. “The participants graduating today went through a highly supervised environment and worked hard to achieve their goals. Providing mental health services through a program like this one ultimately increases public safety and reduces crime.”
San Diego’s Behavioral Health Court is believed to be one of the few of its kind in the U.S. It launched in 2010 with funding through Proposition 63. Participants learn skills which help them remain law-abiding citizens; get mental health services and receive help in maintaining stable lives. Similar to Drug Courts, Behavioral Health Courts require defendants to plead guilty, but then focuses on treatment to restore mental health and reduce criminal activity. The program is available to those who meet qualifying criteria including being probation eligible and formally diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
Today’s graduates are sober, have stable housing and income and will give back to their peers through the alumni program. During treatment, their goals included learning habits of self-recovery, receiving psychological counseling, medication and substance abuse treatment when necessary.
The Behavioral Health Court team meets before the court calendar every month to discuss each participant’s progress and challenges. Participants must adhere to a curfew and are closely monitored by judicial and probation staff as well as case managers. There are currently 32 defendants in the program.