Innovation Number 9:
Ohio's Special Courts:
The courts as leader and partner in preventing and ending chronic
? Ohio's Mental Health Court - just one of the Special Courts in Ohio's Supreme
Court "Specialized Docket" - is an active leader in seeking better outcomes
through policy and practice for persons who are homeless with mental health
issues and in the criminal justice system.
? The Court creates strategic intergovernmental partnerships with state agencies in
both the executive and judicial branches and with local agencies seeking to break
the costly cycle of random ricocheting for persons with behavioral health issues
and histories of homelessness who are in the court system. What is the Innovation and How Does It Work?
Ohio's Mental Health Court builds leadership and intergovernmental and
community partnership to prevent and end chronic homelessness.
Ohio's Mental Health Court - one of the Special Courts in Ohio's Supreme Court
"Specialized Docket" - demonstrates political will in partnerships for better outcomes
for persons who are homeless with mental health issues and in the criminal justice
system. Ohio judicial leaders have created strategic partnerships with state agencies
in both the executive and judicial branches, and with local judicial and service
agencies seeking to break the cycle of random ricocheting for persons with
behavioral health issues and histories of homelessness who are in the court system.
The result is an active intergovernmental partnership model for the judiciary in
pursuit of the goal of preventing and ending chronic homelessness, demonstrated in
policy through participation in the Ohio Interagency Council on Homelessness and Affordable Housing and other collaborative interagency venues at the national, state,
and local level, and in practice through training events, conferences, and best
practice events for judges and their court staffs on issues and resources (including
housing, counseling, medication, and employment assistance) for special populations.
Ohio's Mental Health Court is an example of the "problem-solving courts" that Ohio
has encouraged statewide. The Specialized Docket model focuses on the "cultivation
of community collaborations for a complete systems approach to handle cases with
the highest recidivism rates." In practice, Ohio's example shows the importance of
the judiciary as a partner in State Interagency Councils and jurisdictional 10 Year
Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, who is a national leader on
the strategy of special courts, established the Ohio Supreme Court's Advisory
Committee on Mental Illness and the Courts (ACMIC) in 2001, which she chairs. The
Advisory Committee is made up of over 50 representatives from the Ohio
Departments of Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, and
Rehabilitation and Correction, and the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services,
Judges, law enforcement, mediation experts, housing and treatment providers,
consumer advocacy groups, and other officials from across the state.
Collaborative partnership between the judiciary and executive branches in Ohio is
further supported by the inclusion of the Supreme Court on the state Interagency
Council on Homelessness and Affordable Housing, created by Executive Order of
Governor Ted Strickland last year. Chaired by Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, the
state ICH recently convened its meeting at the Ohio Judicial Center, where they were
welcomed by Judge Stratton.
Who Benefits from the Innovation?
Individuals who are homeless or at risk and living with mental illness benefit
from a collaborative, holistic, and informed strategy to support and stabilize them in
the community, monitor progress and compliance, and address barriers and
Judicial partners benefit from having a broader network of choices, resources, and
experts who can identify critical partners and expand positive outcomes for
individuals, while supporting the court's role.
State and local government and service agencies benefit by working together to
solve the issues facing their clients, stabilizing individuals, promoting treatment and
recovery, and reducing costly recidivism.
The community benefits by increasing stabilization for vulnerable and costly
individuals. According to Justice Stratton, in Ohio, the mental health program costs
taxpayers $30 a day, versus prison ($60), a mental hospital ($450), and a general
What Results are being Achieved and Reported?
The Supreme Court's Advisory Committee has organized numerous trainings and
conferences for judges and their court staffs on issues related to mental illness
impacting both adults and juveniles. The Advisory Committee has also supported the
local creation of mental health courts and jail diversion programs. Over 100
specialized dockets are in operation in Ohio, including over 70 Drug Courts, over 30
Mental Health Courts, and 5 Re-Entry Courts.
Along with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence, the Advisory
Committee has fostered the adoption of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training by
police academies, departments, and sheriff's offices. Ohio has more courts operating
mental health dockets and law enforcement officers trained in crisis intervention than
any other state.
The Ohio Specialized Dockets Practitioner Network is another component of
the strategy and consists of several sub-networks of specialized docket professionals
organized by discipline. These include: Judges and Magistrates, Prosecutors, Defense
Counsel, Probation Officers, Mental Health Clinicians, Drug Treatment Counselors,
Coordinators, Case Managers, and Children Services Workers. These groups are
further divided by jurisdiction - adults or juveniles.
Two Kent State University evaluations of Ohio mental health courts found that those
individuals who completed their court process reported an increased quality of life
because of reduced stigma about their illness, and that "those who successfully
complete MHC experienced fewer incarcerations after program participation when
compared to their previous behaviors and in comparison to other consumers of
mental health services. We conclude that this indicates that the program has the Who is the Innovator? desired effects in slowing the revolving door of criminalization."
The Supreme Court of Ohio and Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton have
provided national leadership on the strategy of special courts and have sought out
partners from all sectors to expand awareness and solutions. Justice Stratton has
used her position to foster dialogue on the issues of mental illness and the criminal
To promote effective judicial efforts nationally on this issue, she became co-founder
along with Miami/Dade County Circuit Court Judge Steven Leifman of the national
Judges' Criminal Justice/Mental Health Leadership Initiative (JLI) and co-chairs the
Returning Home Advisory Commission, which assists with prisoner re-entry to reduce
recidivism and its cost to society. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Criminal
Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project and the Technical Assistance and Policy
Analysis (TAPA) Center for Jail Diversion convene JLI.
Some Mental Health Courts are funded federally through the Mentally Ill Offender
Treatment and Crime Reduction Act in 2004, spearheaded by then Sen. Mike DeWine and then Rep. Ted Strickland, now Ohio Governor, to advance local efforts to divert
mentally ill offenders into community treatment programs.
Where Can I Learn More About the Innovation?
To learn more about the Ohio Specialized Dockets Section, contact the Supreme Court of Ohio:
65 South Front Street, 6th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431
E-mail: email@example.com or visit the web site. To learn more about the Ohio Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Mental
Illness and the Courts and read articles about effectively dealing with mentally ill
offenders in the criminal justice system, visit the web site. To learn more about the Judges' Criminal Justice/Mental Health Leadership
Initiative (JLI), and see resources for Judges, including sample forms, fact sheets,
research on mental health courts, and other materials for a court's day-to-day
operations, visit http://consensusproject.org/JLI/ Read the new Department of Justice report: Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses: The Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court
Also available is the report: Strategies for Court Collaboration with Service Communities.
The National GAINS Center has operated since 1995 to collect and disseminate information about effective mental health and substance abuse services for people
with co-occurring disorders in the justice system. The TAPA Center for Jail Diversion
and the Center for Evidence-Based Programs in the Justice System (funded by the
Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) in 2001 and 2004 respectively), comprise
the National GAINS Center. Read more at: http://gainscenter.samhsa.gov/html/
The Judiciary is an important partner in local and state response to homeless persons
with mental illness, joining local and state agencies in seeking solutions to the
revolving door of this population in the criminal justice system. Judges have
recognized that people with mental illness and co-occurring disorders, who often
were also homeless, were significantly over-represented among the defendants
appearing before them again and again. In some communities, Courts and Special
Courts have convened proceedings at Project Homeless Connect events.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Mental Health Courts typically employ a
problem-solving approach to court processing in lieu of more traditional court
procedures for certain defendants, with judicially supervised, community-based
treatment plans for each defendant participating in the court, which a team of court
staff and mental health professionals design and implement. Courts hold regular
status hearings at which treatment plans and other conditions are periodically
reviewed for appropriateness, incentives are offered to reward adherence to court
conditions, and sanctions are imposed on participants who do not adhere to the
conditions of participation. Generally there are specific criteria defining a participant's
completion of the program.