A judicial program requires participants to receive mental health care and other services to avoid jail time.
Pittsburg County is one of 23 counties in Oklahoma with a mental health court and only one of nine with a juvenile version.
District 18 District Judge Mike Hogan said he created a youth mental health court module based on similar programs in surrounding states. He presented it to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and it received approval.
Oklahoma ranks 39th in access to mental health care and 25th overall in the prevalence of mental health problems, according to Mental Health America, a community nonprofit dedicated to addressing mental health issues. .
The state also ranks 40th in youth mental illness prevalence and access to care.
Mental health courts are authorized by the Anna McBride Act, passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed in 2002 by then-Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating.
“Any county or municipal court of this state may institute a mental health program in accordance with the provisions of this section, subject to the availability of funds,” the law states.
Hogan said he volunteered more than a year ago to oversee the adult mental health court in Pittsburg County. He said funding issues delayed the program’s launch, but both youth and adult programs are now fully funded.
Pittsburg County special district judge Mindy Beare oversees the Pittsburg County juvenile court while Hogan oversees the McIntosh County juvenile program.
“You don’t get many youngsters,” Hogan said. “But my goal was to hopefully fix a problem when they’re younger, which will allow you to start treatment earlier and address something and maybe stop it before it escalates.”
To be eligible to participate in the program, participants must agree to plead guilty to their crime as part of a plea deal, with the judge having ultimate decision-making power.
Under the law, a judge can include in the program any person charged with a felony or misdemeanor, except those who have been arrested or charged with violent or serious offenses and those with previous convictions for a felony.
People who participate in the program sign a contract stating that the person will follow the rules of the program – such as reporting to compliance officers and managers, keeping all appointments in court, treatment, serving probation, taking medication, and legal problems remain.
Participants must complete five stages before they are eligible to graduate from the program. Requirements at each stage can be adapted to the needs of the participant.
Phase one is expected to last a minimum of four weeks and is the orientation and engagement phase during which participants must create their treatment plan and receive a sponsor and homegroup.
The second phase is the stabilization phase. Phase three is the ‘independence phase of building’.
To progress through the first three stages, participants must answer certain questions about what they have learned and their living conditions.
Phase four is the “transition” phase.
Each of the first four phases requires the participant to attend a certain number of personal support groups, continue their treatments, make daily calls, observe curfews, pay program fees, fines and court fees, and complete a certain number of community services. maintenance.
In stage five, there is no active treatment plan unless a relapse occurs which will be assessed on an individual basis. Rules and curfews become less restrictive for participants in phase five.
Each participant must send a petition letter to Hogan that will be read aloud before the judge decides whether he or she wants to advance in the program.
Hogan said getting people to work is a priority.
“My goal is that I want them to work in the community. It doesn’t matter what, even if they volunteer,” Hogan said.
Hogan said he sees a difference if participants complete the program with money earned legally.
Failure to follow the rules could result in the person not progressing to the next stage, having to restart a stage, serving a weekend jail term, or being removed from the program, with the possibility of their probation being revoked.
To learn more about the mental health courts and other services of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, visit www.oklahoma.gov/odmhsas.html.
Contact Derrick James at [email protected]