Mental Health Courts
1. DeKalb County Misdemeanor Mental Health Court
The DeKalb County Misdemeanor Mental Health Court (“MMHC”), formerly the Diversion Treatment Court (“DTC”) is an accountability court that now operates as a post-plea court. The Court has been operational since May 2001 and has graduated and dismissed cases for more than 400 participants diagnosed with mental illness.
All Participants MUST:
- Have a verifiable Axis I mental health diagnosis
- A current charge pending in DeKalb County and minimum nonviolent criminal history
- Be capable of making an informed choice and be willing participate in the conditions of their deferred sentence
- Be willing to take all prescribed medications
Program Requirements and Referrals
- The DeKalb Misdemeanor Mental Health Court (MMHC) is a post-plea Accountability Court
- A Defendant is required to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere in the originating trial court prior to entering the MMHC
- That sentence will be deferred for the next 12 months
- With successful completion of the program, the sentence will be vacated, charges dismissed and the record restricted
- While in the program, a Defendant will be required to attend court appearances, mental health treatment appointments, therapeutic group sessions, undergo random drug screens, comply with medication adherence, etc.
- However, if a Defendant is terminated from the program for noncompliance, the case is returned to the originating trial court to impose the original sentence.
Steps to Enter:
- Referrals to the MMHC are received from the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, public defenders, jail mental health, judges, Pre-trial Services, family and previous mental health court participants. The referral form may be found at the court’s website www.dekalbmisdemeanormentalhealthcourt.org (fax to 404-371-2683 or hand-deliver to the MMHC administrative assistant Ingrid George or any member of the court staff);
- Referred Defendants are then directed to a MMHC observation that is scheduled by a court social worker either from a mini-assessment after arraignment, or consultation with private counsel, the prosecutor and public defender’s office;
- Referred Defendants who were not directed to observation from a mini-assessment receive a mini-assessment immediately after the scheduled observation. The mini-assessment involves a brief interview and opportunity for court social workers to get a confidential release of information to establish the presence of mental illness;
- A more in-depth assessment and urinary drug screen is scheduled after records confirm mental illness and Referred Defendants are connected or reconnected to treatment providers;
- Referred Defendants are evaluated for participation and approved by the full MMHC Interdisciplinary Team for enrollment;
- A hearing is scheduled for the Defendant to enter a plea and participation in the MMCH is included in the sentence as a condition of probation; and
- The Diversion Treatment Court has been operational since May 2001 and has graduated nearly 400 individuals with mental illness and they have had their criminal cases dismissed.
Misdemeanor Mental Health Court:
- Is a voluntary judicially supervised court program
- Designs individual treatment plans appropriate for each individual’s needs
- Assists and requires a Participant to locate available and affordable treatment
- Assists with transportation needs by providing a MARTA Card when possible
The MMHC strives to provide individually designed treatment plans that incorporate the dreams and aspirations that were the driving force for each individual before mental illness derailed those plans.
Treatment plans include:
- Compliance with prescribed medications
- Participation in treatment groups
- Compliance with house rules,
- Abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol
- Completion of schooling /training/GED
- Participation in community/volunteer services and peer support programs
- Application for public assistance where applicable, etc.
DeKalb County Misdemeanor Mental Health Court Location and Contact Information
DeKalb County Courthouse
Magistrate Court of DeKalb County
Suite 1200, First Floor, Courtroom 1200D
Judge Berryl A. Anderson, Chief Magistrate
Magistrate Rhathelia Stroud, Presiding Judge
Magistrate Judge Lindsay Jones, Assistant Judge
Magistrate Judge September Guy, Assistant Judge
Retired Judge Winston Bethel, Acting Director
Bedford “Chip” Forte, Coordinator
Dr. Vickie Jester, LCSW, Ph.D., Clinical Evaluator
Ingrid Hall George, Administrative Assistant
Magistrate Court Pretrial Services
Braddye Smith, Coordinator, MMHC Case Manager
2. DeKalb County Felony Mental Health Court
The DeKalb County Felony Mental Health Court (DCFMHC) is a two-year judicially supervised treatment/alternative sentencing program to assist felony offenders who present with sever and persistent mental illness or co-occurring disorders. The program will serve offenders with an extensive history of non-compliance with treatment and multiple risk factors, including significant criminal and/or housing issues. The DCFMHC will formally start operation in January 2016. The program will target and engage moderate to high-risk (recidivism) and high-needs (service needs) participants in intensive outpatient treatment services.
To be eligible a defendant must be:
- Charged with a felony (except as excluded below, matters will be evaluated on a case by case basis);
- The current charge/crime (or a criminal history) is linked to a mental disorder; and
- The mental health issue caused (is the nexus of) the criminal behavior (as opposed to an individual who commits criminal behavior and has ancillary or collateral mental health issues).
Notwithstanding the above, a defendant is NOT eligible for the Mental Health Court if:
- The mental health issue involves:
- A borderline personality disorder, or a similar disorder, or
- The pending charge consists of, or there is a criminal history which contains:
- Aggravated Child Molestation;
- Aggravated Sodomy;
- Kidnapping with Bodily Injury;
- Armed Robbery;
- Aggravated Sexual Battery;
- Felony Sexual Battery; or
- A sex crime, defined as any crime requiring sex-offender registration.
The current funding-level census of the program is approximately 15 active participants and will scale-up to capacity by Fall 2016. The program will begin the referral and assessment process in late November/early December 2015 to formally start the program in January 2016.
Presiding Judge: Asha F. Jackson
Accountability Court Director: Fredericka S. Dent – 404.371.2906
Program Coordinator: Elouise Lamar – 404.371.5880