Felony Mental Health Court Program Description
Harris County District Courts, Criminal Division
The Harris County Felony Mental Health Court (FMHC) began screening defendants for court admission during the first week of March 2012. The court, originally funded by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, was implemented after extensive planning by representatives from the mental health community and criminal justice system, as well as treatment providers and advocates. Judge Jan Krocker, the Presiding Judge of the 184th District Court served as the Founding Judge. As the Court enters its second year, Judge David Mendoza, the Presiding Judge of the 178th District Court, and Judge Brock Thomas, Presiding Judge of the 338th District Court, volunteer their time to serve as a judge of this therapeutic court.
The FMHC is based on the national problem-solving court model. It is a collaborative partnership between the criminal justice system, a network of community-based providers and the participant. The ultimate goal of the FMHC is to ensure public safety and minimize recidivism while diverting defendants with a mental illness from incarceration and instead facilitating linkage to appropriate treatment and community resources.
The FMHC is designed for defendants who have been charged with a felony offense (assaultive offenses and offenses involving possession or use of a firearm will be considered on a case by case basis) and diagnosed with a serious and persistent mental illness. The court will accept a defendant only if s/he wishes to voluntarily enter the court after consulting with his/her attorney.
The FMHC Program consists of the following components:
- comprehensive evaluation to determine the participant’s strengths and needs
- minimum 18 month Court participation in multi-phased continuum
- frequent appearances before the FMHC Judge
- regular visits with a specially trained Community Supervision Officer
- intensive treatment by mental health professionals
- substance abuse treatment for participants with a co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorder
- random alcohol and drug testing
The FMHC program is recovery-based and designed to accommodate a full range of identified needs while providing structure and guidelines to help participants reach their goals. At the beginning of the program, more intensive supervision and treatment opportunities are expected. As a participant progresses through the FMHC program and demonstrates to the Judge that s/he is successfully managing treatment and Probation requirements, the Judge will reduce the frequency and intensity of court contact.
The FMHC Program length, which is determined by the participant’s progress, is at least 18 months. Some participants may require a longer and more structured experience to help them fully benefit from the program. Those admitted to the court will receive deferred adjudication and community supervision. A participant may complete the FMHC program but still remain under the supervision of a Community Supervision Officer until the terms of community supervision are complete or the Judge early terminates the supervision period.
An important element of the FMHC program is ensuring that each participant successfully manages the transition from a highly intensive level of supervision, treatment and support to a reduced level of treatment and support. This is accomplished through the development and application of an individualized Wellness Action Plan which is designed to help the participant maintain stability upon completion of the FMHC.
Under the leadership of Project Director, Laura Cohen, a team of dedicated professionals has been assembled to ensure that all aspects of the collaborative process are represented. In addition to Judge Mendoza and Judge Thomas, the FMHC Team is comprised of a licensed master’s level Clinical Team Leader, a licensed master’s level Court Clinician, a licensed bachelor’s level Case Manager, two dedicated Assistant District Attorneys, two dedicated Defense Attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office, two dedicated Community Supervision Officers, and the participant.
For further information, please contact the FMHC Team at (832) 927-4350 or FMHC@Justex.net