A new specialty court system in Collin County will divert offenders who have a mental health diagnoses into an outpatient treatment program instead of the traditional criminal justice process.
"Collin County continues to make great strides serving those with mental health concerns,” said Danielle Sneed, deputy clinical officer of LifePath Systems in a press release on Feb. 21.
The new system will see LifePath Systems work with a specialty court team to provide mental health treatment for offenders. The goal of the program is to decrease the need for hospitalization and incarceration.
The specialty court team will include program coordinator Donald Bell, case manager Michelle Garcia, specialist Molly Craft and defense attorney Kim Laseter. Judge Jennifer Edgeworth of the 219th District Court will preside over the program with Judge Lance Baxter of County Court at Law 3.
“We are proud the new diversion court for offenses involving persons with mental illness has been created and appreciate another opportunity to assist those suffering from mental health issues in the criminal justice system and provide them with services needed to remain stable," said Sneed.
The program is described as an "intensive community supervision model." It combines mental health treatment with frequent court appearances, home visits, case management, counseling and community-based support services.
The court will begin accepting eligible felony and misdemeanor cases on Feb. 23 and will start with 40 eligible cases.
To be eligible, individuals must be at least 17-years-old with a mental health diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective, major depression, bipolar and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Officials estimate that the diversion program will take nine to 12 months for each participant. Those who complete the program successfully have the opportunity to get their cases dismissed and expunged from court records.
The program will complement Collin County's Mental Health Managed Counsel Program led by Alyse Ferguson, which is one of only a handful of county advocacy programs in Texas for individuals experiencing mental health issues.
The new specialty court has been funded by a grant from Texas governor Greg Abbott’s office that was issued last fall. For more information, click here.