This examination of the emergence of mental health courts in the United States was made possible by the special recognition and leadership shown by Nancy Gist, Director, and Timothy Murray, Director, Program Development Division, Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. The research we describe in this report involved observations, interviews and continuing discussions with a number of officials and key actors in the nation?s first four mental health courts. This work was possible because of the cooperation, assistance and patience of quite a number of very busy people.
We are appreciative of the assistance and encouragement of the Honorable Stephanie Rhoades, who made herself available to answer questions and provide documentation about the work of her court. We would like to thank JAS Coordinator/Caseworker Laura Brooks and Mental Health Coordinator Colleen Reilly as well for their thorough descriptions and prompt responses to requests for information. Chief Municipal Prosecutor John Richards was particularly helpful in providing information and offering valuable insights into aspects of the mental health court programs. In the Public Defender?s Office, Margi Mock was the source of important information from the perspective of the mentally ill offender.
We are very grateful for the assistance, cooperation and helpful discussions with the Honorable Ginger Lerner-Wren in Broward County, the nation?s first mental health court judge in the first mental health court. She invited us to observe her courtroom, arranged a meeting of all key actors, including the Honorable Mark Speiser who played a major role in planning the court, in which our questions were very patiently answered. Judge Lerner-Wren welcomed the research and offered critical insight into the operations of the court and objectives of her program. We appreciate the assistance of Broward Mental Health Court staff, particularly Judicial Assistant Christine Paganelis and Court Monitor Bertha Smith, who provided information about treatment issues. We thank Assistant District Attorney Lourdes Roberts, who patiently provided requested information.
Our observation of the King County Mental Health Court was equally eyeopening. We thank the Honorable James Cayce, Presiding Judge of King County District Court and Mental Health Court judge, for his open support and cooperation. He gave freely of his time in person and over the phone and made sure we had our many questions answered. Program Manager Kari Burell tirelessly answered all of our questions and responded promptly to numerous requests for information. The help provided by Court Monitor Susie Rozalsky is also greatly appreciated. Mark Larson, Chief Deputy District Attorney of the Criminal Division, thoughtfully explained the issues, perspective and interests of the prosecutor relating to the Mental Health Court. We appreciate the cooperation of Public Defenders Floris Mikkleson and Dan Gross and their willingness to describe the issues faced by the defendant, and the assistance of Probation Officer Susan Butler in informing us about supervision and treatment issues.
Our visit to San Bernardino was originally intended to conduct focus groups with participants in the San Bernardino Drug Court presided over by the Honorable Patrick Morris. He invited us to observe the mental health court. His court was impressive, differing from the others in taking felony as well as misdemeanor matters. Its full docket dealt with very difficult cases and raised many questions for us, which Judge Morris patiently discussed with us. He also invited us to the precourt staffing of the cases and gave us an opportunity to meet with the clinical staff and court personnel. Mental Health Court Administrator Deborah Cima provided invaluable assistance. Conversations with Dr. John Mendoza and Cheryl Hause provided us with valuable insight into the treatment issues of the mentally ill offender as they related to the court. The cooperation of the District Attorney?s Office, provided by Assistant District Attorneys Dan Lough and Charlie Umeda, was important in providing perspective into the unique prosecutorial issues that arise in this mental health court. Also much appreciated was the detailed information provided by Jane Lawrence from the Public Defender?s Office.
We are grateful for the opportunity this research represented to observe the innovative efforts underway in these four jurisdictions and the dedication of those involved. Our observations of the courtrooms and discussions with the principal actors impressed us with the seriousness of the issues raised by the mentally ill offender in the criminal caseload and the challenge accepted by these mental health court pioneers.