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198 E. 161st St.
Bronx, NY  10451
(718) 590-2234

 

Robert T. Johnson
District Attorney

2006043 Thursday, June 1, 2006

June 1, 2006

‘BRONX MENTAL HEALTH COURT’ DESIGNATED A NATIONAL MODEL FOR TREATMENT ALTERNATIVES TO INCARCERATION FOR DEFENDANTS WITH SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESSES

The Bronx Mental Health Court TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities) today was formally awarded a certificate designating the court as a national model for treatment alternatives to incarceration for defendants with serious mental illnesses.

The presentation on behalf of the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Assistance, follows an announcement earlier this Spring that the Bronx Mental Health Court has been selected to be one of five national ‘learning sites’ for other jurisdictions that are interested in developing and refining mental health courts. Under this new federal initiative, the Bronx Mental Health Court will provide other jurisdictions with an opportunity to observe and study all aspects involved in the successful and sustained operation of the court, as well as strategies for resolving those issues that a mental health court routinely confronts.

The Bronx Mental Health Court diverts from jail to treatment, defendants who suffer from either mental illness by itself or mental illness combined with problems of drug and / or alcohol abuse or HIV/AIDS. Treatment is supervised by the court and made available in appropriate cases to defendants who either have been charged with felony offenses or are repeat misdemeanor offenders. The court defers sentencing for these defendants and actively monitors their progress as they undergo treatment. Defendants receive comprehensive diagnosis, treatment, and risk assessment evaluation from a clinical team that is an integral component of the Bronx Mental Health Court.

The Bronx Mental Health Court was created in 2002 when the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the Bronx State Supreme Court, Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC), New York University and Research Triangle Institute created a formal partnership to establish the first such court in New York State. As a result of its success, the court was one of five chosen from approximately 120 mental health courts across the nation, to participate in the Mental Health Courts Learning Sites Initiative by sharing its expertise with other jurisdictions.

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said: “We join with our partners in this effort because of the importance that we place on treating certain mental and medical conditions that may be contributing factors in the criminal conduct of some individuals. Our objective in this approach is to make life better for the entire community including the afflicted defendants who come before the court. This designation as a “learning site” will enable us to show how our collaborative efforts have made a difference here and thereby help other communities develop solutions to help themselves.”

The Honorable Justice John Collins said: “ I am proud to say that the Bronx Supreme Court, in partnership with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, initiated one of the first mental health courts in New York State. As both the Administrative Judge of Bronx Supreme Court, Criminal Division, and the presiding judge of the mental health court, I appreciate the services this innovative approach provides to the community and share in the individual success stories of these mentally ill defendants. I am pleased that, having been selected as a learning site, we can help advance the widespread use of these services.”

Dr. Merrill Rotter, Medical Director of the Bronx Mental Health Court said: “We are very excited to have been chosen as one of the national learning sites. The Bronx Mental Health Court is more than just a judge, some attorneys and a mental health team. It is a network of care that begins with identification of persons in need of services and ends with community based treatment. The Learning Site designation reflects the success of our collaboration with our program partners in both the criminal justice and mental health communities in developing and implementing a very productive model of mental health diversion; to that extent, it is a feather in all our caps. However, even more important, it gives us the opportunity to share our experience broadly with the benefits of enhancing diversion opportunities for individuals with mental illness in other jurisdictions and stimulating further creative thinking within our own.”


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