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Posted on: January 13, 2016

DeKalb County Launches New Mental Health Court

[Decatur, GA] The DeKalb County Felony Mental Health Court (DCFMHC) is set to launch this month thanks to a $119,398 grant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office provides the required $11,940 match.

DCFMHC is a two-year judicially supervised treatment and alternative sentencing program designed to assist felony offenders who have severe and persistent mental illness or co-occurring disorders.

“This is a major step in the right direction for addressing the growing need for mental health assistance, curbing recidivism among those who struggle with mental health disorders and connecting individuals and families with critical mental health resources,” said DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Asha F. Jackson, who initiated the creation of DCFMHC. “I truly believe this collaborative effort with the DeKalb County Superior Court, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office, Court Administration and Department of Community Supervision will yield a national accountability court model.”

Participants in the two-year program must attend individual counseling, submit to random drug screens and regularly appear in court in front of Judge Jackson. Additional ancillary services include: psychiatric support services, group treatment sessions and medication maintenance compliance sessions.

In order to be eligible for DCFMHC, a defendant must be charged with a felony crime, where the cause of the criminal behavior is related to a mental health disorder. Defendants with borderline personality disorder or individuals charged with murder, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, kidnapping with bodily injury, armed robbery, aggravated sexual battery, felony sexual battery or any sex crime requiring the defendant to register as a sex offender would not be eligible for the DCFMHC Program.

“This grant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee was imperative for us to begin addressing our high-risk and high-need mentally ill population here in DeKalb County.” said DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James. “There tends to be a revolving door in the criminal justice system for individuals who suffer from untreated or unmanaged mental health issues. This court encompasses accountability and assistance to help break recidivism among this population.”

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee recently provided $28,000 in additional grant funding to assist with housing, transportation and medication needs for DCFMHC participants.

Fredericka Dent will serve as Executive Director for DCFMHC.

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