Ohios Special Courts

By Rebecca Bennett,2014-05-07 21:26
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Ohios Special Courts

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

    hospital ($1,500).

    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

    justice system.

    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

    Phone: 614-387-9425

    E-mail: 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 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:

    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.

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