Many people who get convicted of crimes – especially repeat offenders – suffer from mental illness. In many cases, criminal offenders with mental disorders are thrown into disruptive and hostile jail environments where they stand no chance at getting better. Fortunately, the Sarasota County Health Care Court offers another option for people with mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system.

How Does the Sarasota Health Care Court Work?

The Mental Health Care Court is available to people with serious and persistent mental illness. Instead of jail and fines, they can go through a judicially supervised treatment plan coordinated by the criminal court and mental health care professionals. Instead of punishing people with mental illness who get caught up in the criminal justice system, the objective is to treat them and to improve their quality of life.

The Sarasota County Mental Health Care Court identifies participants through mental health screenings and assessments. Qualified participants can access one or more of the following services instead of criminal penalties:

  • Individual Therapy Sessions
  • Group Therapy Sessions
  • Psychiatric Evaluation by a Licensed Professional
  • Psychotropic Medication
  • Life Skills Coaching
  • Substance Abuse Evaluation and Treatment
  • Case Management

These strategies represent a compassionate approach to the penal system that has the practical effect of reducing recidivism rates, or the rate at which offenders repeat crimes. Additionally, it comes at no financial cost to the participants. Each participant’s team meets weekly to discuss progress and then writes a status report for the judge, who decides whether the participant will receive awards or sanctions.

Who is Qualified to Participate in Mental Health Care Court?

Potential participants may be referred to the Mental Health Care Court by any of the following: judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, or pretrial case officers. The court will screen potential participants according to several criteria. To qualify, all of the following must apply:

  • Active criminal charge (either misdemeanor or felony)
  • Mental illness diagnosis
  • Over 18 years old
  • Resident of Sarasota County
  • No criminal history involving violent offenses
  • No evidence of drug dealing
  • Demonstrated desire to change and to complete the program

Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. Is Here to Help

If you have a history of mental illness and are facing criminal charges, participating in the Sarasota Mental Health Court may be the best way forward. To learn more about whether you qualify, and whether participation in the Mental Health Care Court is a good option in your case, call Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. today at (941) 363-7900 for a free consultation.

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