Sixth Judicial District working to further develop Mental Health Collaboration grant

Sixth Judicial District working to further develop Mental Health Collaboration grant

Sixth Judicial District working to further develop Mental Health Collaboration grant

A grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is helping to strengthen and extend specialty court and pre-trial release services in the Sixth Judicial District. A two-year Mental Health Collaboration Grant from BJA is helping to develop cooperative improvements to the way the courts deal with the needs of adult offenders who have mental and emotional challenges

Several months ago, District Judge Michael Montero and the court’s program specialist, Brooke O’Byrne, told Humboldt County’s Commissioners that the Sixth Judicial District Court had been awarded a $600,000 two-year grant ($300,000 to be used each year) to develop collaborative efforts for Mental Health Court and pre-trial release services.

The goal of the collaborative effort will be, when appropriate, to connect offenders — especially those who are likely to be involved in the legal system over and over again — with treatment services rather than a revolving door between jail and the court system. Accomplishing that goal will take the combined efforts of law enforcement and the courts with local mental health and counseling providers.

“The Mental Health Collaboration Grant has given us an opportunity to expand our mental health court and the programs we’re offering,” said Montero. “It’s also an opportunity for the district court to work closely with the sheriff’s office and the justice court in looking at ways to provide treatment services to individuals who are coming through the justice court system or upon their discharge from jail, rather than having to wait until they’re involved in the district court system.”

“It is still new to us and we have only had an opportunity to discuss this briefly with sheriff’s office leadership, so I’m looking forward to planning further with them,” O’Byrne said. O’Byrne has talked with Justice of the Peace Letty Norcutt about ways in which the courts could work together in implementing this grant.

“Any case starts in Justice Court, so it’s important for us to work together,” O’Byrne said, adding that Norcutt was interested and enthusiastic.

Montero said he was very pleased that the Sixth Judicial District Court has been able to successfully apply for grant money to pay for its Specialty Courts and other programs. Those Specialty Courts and the Specialty Court Teams have made a huge difference for many of the people these programs were developed to help and Judge Montero believes they have made the community safer.

“When I started, we had grant funding for a specialty court budget between $200,000 and $300,000.

I think we’re now about $1.3 million in grant funding. Through grants we’ve obtained, we’ve been able to provide greater services to the community,” Montero said.

Montero sits on the state’s pre-trial release commission, which has been studying and establish guidelines for developing pre-trial release programs across the state. In participating in that planning process, he’s come to think that within the next two years it’s likely pre-trial release programs will be a state mandate.

“So, we’re just getting ahead of the curve,” O’Byrne said.

While Sixth Judicial District Court staff has been laying some of the ground work toward use of the Mental Health Collaboration Grant, grant award is still working it’s way through the process. “We are working with the Federal technical assistance providers to complete the implementation process,” O’Byrne explained.