Launched final 12 months, the Behavioral Well being Docket targets a rigorously chosen set of people that have been charged with misdemeanor crimes and who’ve psychological well being points which can be critical sufficient to disrupt their lives however not so critical that they’re legally thought of not accountable for their actions. In a course of much like that utilized by drug courts in Montgomery County and elsewhere, the Behavioral Well being Docket defendants meet twice month-to-month with a decide and a gaggle that features remedy suppliers. Collectively, they evaluation what points defendants face and the way they’re coping with them, be it healthcare, housing, employment or different issues.
The objective of the intensive scrutiny is “getting them out of the scenario that acquired them on the docket within the first place,” mentioned Decide Gino Williams, who oversees the particular court docket.
In a written abstract of this system up to now, Pettitt listed anticipated advantages that embody fewer felony expenses, emergency room visits and detention orders; diminished monetary prices to the neighborhood; and enchancment in defendants’ lives.
It ought to take a few 12 months or so to deliver defendants to the purpose of commencement, when they’re deemed able to tackle extra independence. Some defendants nonetheless face convictions however have their jail time suspended in the event that they take part in this system, others have their expenses dismissed in the event that they efficiently full this system, Pettitt wrote.
Williams instructed graduates that he had dismissed their expenses earlier within the day.
Each graduates thanked program organizers and mentioned that collaborating within the Behavioral Well being Docket was life-changing.
“It’s been a rising expertise. I don’t suppose I might have gone to high school with out it,” mentioned Austin Jaret Duncan of Christiansburg, who had dismissals of counts of assault and battery, and tried assault and battery.
Duncan mentioned that he’s a 12 months into a web-based program to earn a bachelor’s diploma in psychology. He mentioned that he hopes to switch to an in-person college and to ultimately work in psychology or neuroscience.
Williams instructed Duncan, “We’re pleased with you,” and requested how his grades had been.
“Nonetheless A’s,” Duncan mentioned.
Williams laughed. “I can’t say I ever had that occur to me,” he mentioned.
Amongst these applauding the graduates was Circuit Court docket Decide Robert Turk, who supervises the county’s Drug Court docket, Montgomery County Supervisor Sherri Blevins, and County Administrator Craig Meadows.
The Montgomery County Behavioral Well being Docket is the primary of its sort within the New River Valley. Williams mentioned that he hopes it will definitely will increase to different courts within the twenty seventh Judicial District.
Roanoke, Roanoke County and Salem have lengthy had the same program known as a therapeutic docket.
In her written abstract, Pettitt mentioned that the Montgomery County program has up to now had about 25 individuals referred by protection attorneys, the court docket or probation officers. Pettitt mentioned that she evaluations expenses and prior felony historical past, seeks enter from victims and regulation enforcement, and sends candidates to New River Valley Group Companies for a dedication if the Behavioral Well being Docket may assist.
Group Companies “has been nice about getting the individual into wanted companies even earlier than they formally enter this system,” Pettitt wrote.
The second graduate requested to not be recognized within the newspaper however credited this system with connecting her to assist that she had looked for years.
Of the 25 candidates, 14 had been authorised for this system, Pettitt wrote. 4 individuals left this system earlier than finishing it – two incurred new felony expenses, one requested to depart, and one “went MIA,” Pettitt wrote.
Talking to the graduates, Pettitt mentioned the brand new program was a welcome distinction to a lot of her job.
“I work the felony facet of issues. I might be glad to not have any prospects,” Pettitt mentioned. “… If I can get individuals out of the felony justice system and again to being productive members of society, that makes me actually pleased.”