Over the past several decades, the Criminal Justice System has been experiencing the impact of the many mental hospitals and institutions closing throughout the United States. In order to address this problem, a Mental Health Court Task Force was formed by the St. Louis County Department of Justice Services in March 2001. As a result of this Task Force, St. Louis County began a pilot Municipal Mental Health Court in August 2001 to address the concerns of the mentally ill in our municipal court system. The first St. Louis County Municipal Mental Health docket was held in October 2001. The municipal court level appeared to be the best place to start due to the lesser nature of the charges and the focus in the local community.
The Department of Justice Services was awarded a two-year $150,000 grant in October 2003 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance which is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The funds were used to hire a full-time Mental Health Court Case Manager and improve the court’s ability to identify, assess, evaluate and monitor offenders with mental illness. Pursuant to the completion of the grant, the Department of Justice Services budgeted for two (2) Case Managers to provide services for this rapidly growing court.
The St. Louis County Municipal Mental Health Court (MMHC) has received support from many areas. Justice Services and the Justice Services’ Community Corrections Division have been working side by side with the County Counselors, defense attorneys, St. Louis County Municipal Judges, St. Louis University, and the community mental health providers to help make this project successful.
The Mental Health Court Task Force established goals and objectives and defined the target population for the St. Louis County Municipal Mental Health Court. Program participation is voluntary for persons with misdemeanor or county ordinance type charges appearing in the St. Louis County Municipal Courts. The individuals participating must be experiencing mental illness, mental retardation, or other psychiatric developmental disabilities including individuals with co-occurring mental illness and addictive disorders.
A total of one hundred fifty-six (156) municipal defendants were directed to the MMHC from October 2009 to September 2010. Forty-three (43) defendants were directly referred by the St. Louis County Police Crisis Intervention Team, (CIT) officers. Twenty-five (25) defendants were referred through a contractual agreement with twenty (20) St. Louis County Municipalities. The MMHC is currently being offered as a fee based service to the municipalities within St. Louis County that participate in the CIT training for police officers.