In 2005, under the leadership of Chief District Court Judge Joseph E. Turner, Guilford County recognized the need for a Mental Health Court to address the increasing number of individuals within the judicial system whose criminal charge(s) stem from a mental health illness. With funding from the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and the Moses Cone ~ Wesley Long Community Health Foundation, the court was established and in the fall of 2007, Greensboro had its first session of the Guilford County Mental Health Court (GCMHC).
GCMHC is a special type of court that links eligible offenders with community support and other services to help them better manage their mental illness. The court does not focus entirely on the offenders' criminal behavior but rather strives to help stabilize the individual to eliminate their future presence in the criminal justice system. To meet the criteria for the program, offenders must have a pending criminal charge, a mental health diagnosis or history of mental health treatment, reside in Guilford County, agree to treatment, and comply with all other program rules and regulations. Additionally, the Mental Health Court team consisting of a Judge, District Attorney, Public Defender, Program Coordinator, Case Manager, and Mental Health Best Practices Specialist must deem the individual appropriate for the program.
Treatment, medication review and supervision, case management, and service referrals are the primary ingredients of GCMHC. Offenders admitted in the program agree to participate in the appropriate level of treatment, attend case management appointments, attend court sessions every other week, and agree to take all medications as prescribed by a physician. The program is a minimum of six (6) months and consists of three (3) levels. If an offender fails to comply with the recommendations of the GCMHC team, their case will be returned to the originating court for further disposition.
The overall goals of GCMHC are as follows:
- Promote effective interaction and use of resources among criminal justice personnel and community agencies;
- Divert mentally ill offenders from jail and assist them with obtaining appropriate treatment;
- Reduce recidivism among this population;
- Increase the personal, familiar, and societal accountability of offenders;
- Reduce the Mental Health related court workload within regular courts.