Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills is joining with Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson and Carolee Lindsey of Catholic Charities Maine to establish a program in Cumberland County to divert defendants with mental illness and co-occurring disorders from traditional adjudication for the purpose of avoiding incarceration and other legal penalties on successful completion.
Funded by a planning grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, the project will identify improvements in the way offenders with serious mental illness and cooccurring disorders are treated within the criminal justice system. This includes laying the groundwork for a mental health co-occurring disorders court. The goal is to improve public safety and avoid unnecessary and expensive incarceration.
Offenders eligible for the specialty court would have a major mental illness diagnosis and could have a co-occurring disorder such as substance abuse. They would take part in a court supervised treatment plan that includes services such as housing, counseling, behavioral therapy, medication management, and vocational training. Access to the program would require agreement of the prosecutor and the offender, as well as approval of the court.
A wide range of individuals and organizations are invited to assist in developing the program, including representatives from the Court; the District Attorney's office; the criminal defense bar; mental health and substance abuse treatment agencies; advocates; medical and dental providers; vocational, housing, and educational agencies; consumers; victims of crimes; pretrial services; county and state corrections; and veterans groups.
In addition to Justice Mills, Stephanie Anderson, and Carolee Lindsey, the project planning committee includes Hartwell Dowling (Diversion and Rehabilitation Coordinator, Administrative Office of the Courts), Robert Levine (defense attorney), Elizabeth Simoni (Executive Director, Maine Pre-Trial Services), and Valerie Landry (project coordinator).
Slated for completion in September 2012, the project will include a detailed implementation plan for a mental health co-occurring disorders court and a summary of findings regarding needs of the population, community resources, and potential obstacles to implementation of proposed improvements. Because implementation will require additional resources, the project's sponsors will be seeking an implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, or other federal, state, or private resources.