Mental Health Court
MENTAL HEALTH COURT
May 10, 2017, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City was officially designated as a problem-solving court by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The Office of Problem-Solving Courts (OPSC) of the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts defines a Mental Health Court as a specialized court docket for defendants with mental illness. The purpose of the court is to provide a consistent and informed approach to address defendants with mental health issues and to reduce the participants contact with the criminal Justice system. Participants are identified through mental health screenings and assessments and voluntarily participate in a judicially supervised treatment plan developed by a team of court staff and mental health professionals. The team includes the judge, the assistant state’s attorney, a public defender, a court clinician, a court coordinator, a court case manager, a representative from the Community Forensic Aftercare Program (CFAP), specially assigned probation agents, and a courtroom clerk.
Generally, the three types of mental health issues that are addressed in MHC are as follows:
- Not Criminally Responsible (NCR)
NCR pleas come exclusively from defense counsel. MHC orders the NCR evaluations and if the opinion of the evaluator is that the defendant is NCR and if the defendant wishes to proceed with the plea, because it is entirely the defendant’s choice, A guilty plea is taken, and the MHC judge makes the finding of Not Criminally Responsible. The judge signs the commitment for treatment in a forensic hospital, and eventually, if the administrative law judge finds the defendant eligible for conditional release, the judge signs the order. If it is alleged that it has been violated, the judge signs a hospital warrant for the defendant to return to the hospital.
Anyone may refer a defendant to the MHC for competency. If competency is raised, then the defendant comes before the Mental Health Court for the judge to determine if there is good cause to order an evaluation. The initial evaluation is conducted by Circuit Court Medical Office and further evaluation may take place in a forensic hospital. If the defendant is opined incompetent and dangerous by the evaluator, the MHC judge signs commitment order to the Maryland Department of Health. If the opinion is incompetent to stand trial but not dangerous, the defendant will be released into the community on pre-trial supervision with conditions tailored to meet his mental health needs. CFAP monitors the defendant’s compliance in the community and the defendant must also appear for frequent status conferences scheduled on the MHC docket.
- MHC Probation
MHC also has a probation docket for those defendants who are competent to stand trial and criminally responsible but have a mental illness diagnosis such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The goal of the MHC is to provide those defendants diagnosed with mental illness with a highly structured treatment plan that addresses the individuals needs specifically and provides them with resources to succeed after probation ends. Referrals to the MHC probation docket come from judges, defense attorneys, assistant state’s attorneys. Everyone on the MHC team participates in deciding whether the defendant is an appropriate candidate and eligible for the docket. If a defendant is accepted onto the mental health court docket, the defendant pleads guilty and is placed on mental health court probation. If a defendant fails to follow the conditions of his probation, the team discusses sanctions or termination of the probation.
For further details or any questions please contact the Mental Health Court Coordinator:
Baltimore City Circuit Mental Health Court Coordinator
100 N. Calvert Street, Room 130M
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Telephone number (410) 396-1068