Funding provided for Berrien/Cass Regional Mental Health Court

Published 9:31 am Thursday, October 8, 2015

ST. JOSEPH/CASSOPOLIS — The following grant award has been made by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) for the grant period of Oct, 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016:

• $309,000 for the Berrien/Cass Regional Mental Health Court (MMHCGP-Regional) operated by Berrien County’s Unified Trial Courts and Cass County’s District and Circuit Courts

This grant award makes up a portion of the nearly $14 million dollars in grant awards awarded to 122 courts across the state of Michigan to fund the operation of drug, DWI, mental health, and veterans treatment court programs.

Mental health courts are a recent and rapidly expanding phenomenon. In courtrooms across the country, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys are seeing increasing numbers of defendants who have serious untreated mental illnesses charged with committing low-level crimes. Traditional court processes do little to improve outcomes for many of these people. They cycle again and again through jail, courtrooms, and our streets.

The mission of the Berrien/Cass Regional Mental Health Court is to enhance public safety through the court system’s identification of and engagement with seriously mentally ill offenders in a multi-jurisdictional, community-based, collaborative system of care delivered under court supervision providing individualized treatment and supportive services to reduce recidivism, arrest and incarceration of the seriously mentally ill while at the same time improving RMHC participants’ quality of life.

Mental health courts bring together an interdisciplinary team made up of the judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community mental health treatment providers, other treatment providers, Michigan Department Of Corrections, probation departments, sheriffs’ departments/community corrections, and court administration who collaboratively work together to connect eligible defendants with community-based mental health treatment and, in lieu of incarceration, assign them to intensive community-based supervision.

“Continued funding for problem-solving courts is evidence of the growth and success of treatment-based justice models in Michigan and across the country,” said Frank Sampsell, support services manager for the Berrien County Trial Court. “The movement is strong here in southwest Michigan, but wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our judges, criminal justice agencies and community partners.”

Berrien County has successfully operated a Mental Health Court since 2009. In 2014, Berrien County and Cass County collaborated to apply for, and were awarded, a Regional Mental Health Court grant to take the mental health court philosophy more to scale by expanding the Mental Health Court concept into two counties.

“These grant programs help problem-solving courts continue to do what they do best: save lives, save money, strengthen families, and build stronger communities,” said Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr.

For more information on the program, contact Frank Sampsell at (269) 983-7111 ext. 8347.