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19th Circuit Public Defender's Office  
      
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Mental Health Court

The Mental Health Court was established as a subdivision of the Criminal Division of Courts in 2006 by an Administrative order of the Chief Judge for the 19th Judicial Circuit. Operating in St. Lucie and Martin Counties, Mental Health Court is a diversionary program for persons diagnosed with a severe mental illness or developmental disability, and charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. The Program provides court supervision and social services through collaboration with state, county, and local non-profit service agencies. The Program strives to increase community safety and awareness; promote involvement in treatment; enhance mental health services to improve the client’s overall quality of life; promote independent living; and, reduce recidivism for client’s with mental health disorders.

Mental Health Court is presided over by a Circuit Judge, and administered by a Mental Health Court Team. In addition to the Judge, the Team includes representatives from the Offices of the Public Defender and the State Attorney; Florida’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program; jail personnel; a community mental health provider; a faith-based provider; and, a licensed substance abuse provider.

Clients may be referred for Mental Health Court by community mental health agencies, arresting officers, booking officers, jail medical health staff, the first-appearance Judge, defense and state attorney’s, or a presiding Judge. Mental Health screening is conducted by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker within 48 hours of admission, and, by the Mental Health Court Team within 7 days following the referral. Inmates identified with mental health problems are referred for comprehensive evaluation by forensic psychologists who maintain a partnership with the Mental Health Court Team.

Defendants may be transferred to Mental Health Court when obvious behaviors associated with mental illness or developmental disability have been displayed by the Defendant during arrest, confinement, or appearance in court. The Mental Health Court Team supervises the conditional release of Defendant’s found to be insane or incompetent; however, when neither mental state remains present, the presiding Judge or Mental Health Court Judge, with approval from the State Attorney, may Order the Defendant to be reassigned to Mental Health Court.

The Mental Health Court Team works with their clients to develop a Plan of Care which targets the specific treatment and support necessary for the client to achieve independence and stability. The Plan of Care specifies the conditions of supervision, and requires that clients participate in treatment and other recommended services which include:

• supportive living arrangements
• random drug and alcohol testing
• attendance at 12-step meetings
• therapy
• medication compliance
• scheduled court appearances

The Mental Health Court Judge plays an active role in the Plan of Care by creating individual supportive rapport within a non-punitive environment.
Mental Health Court meets weekly in the St. Lucie County Courthouse, and bi-monthly in the courthouse in Martin County. Program participants are required a minimum of 6 months in the Program; however, the designated length-of-stay depends upon the severity of the client’s charge(s), and their progress through the Program.

“Recommendation for Graduation” by the Mental Health Court Team is achieved when clients fulfill and adhere to the Program’s requirements by participating in treatment and services; abstaining from using alcohol and other drugs; and, have displayed an improvement in their quality of life. A Certificate of Graduation is signed by the Mental Health Court Judge; and, upon review by the State Attorney, the graduates charges are either dismissed or documented as “time-served”.

 

Over the years, the Client Services Program has cultivated relationships with many local social service agencies.

Therefore, we can assist clients with referrals to community programs.  

 

Contact Information

Lisa Fonteyn
Client Services Coordinator
 
Katie Alonzo, Esq.
Assistant Public Defender
Client Services Specialist
 
Michelle Derrico
Client Services Specialist

Jessica Holberton, Esq.
 Client Services Specialist
Diversion Court Attorney

 
1664 SE Walton Road
Suite 203
Port St. Lucie, FL 34952

 Fax (772) 337- 5692

 

 

 
             

 
 
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