Previously published in The Voice (NAMI-Ohio Newsletter) (Fall, 2003). Republished with permission.
Staff Attorney, Justice Stratton's Chambers, Supreme Court of Ohio.
This is the sixteenth article from the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mentally Ill in the Courts about effectively dealing with mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system. This article chronicles the progress of the Advisory Committee and highlights some of our accomplishments.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mentally Ill in the Courts was created in June 2001 when Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Justice, Supreme Court of Ohio, identified an urgency to examine the needs of the mentally ill persons caught up in the revolving door of the criminal justice system. The Advisory Committee began with just a few individuals who gathered to exchange information and identify potential partnerships. It has since grown to approximately fifty members representing a wide spectrum of agencies and organizations, organized several working subcommittees.
The Advisory Committee is working to establish local task forces in each county to bring similar local representatives together to collaborate on issues relating to the mentally ill in the criminal justice system. We encourage each county to start mental health specialty dockets to deal with these issues, but have also found that the collaboration that results when all these groups get together goes far beyond the courtroom.
The Advisory Committee provides guidance, resources, materials and information to the local task forces. We provide role models of successful mental health court dockets, encourage Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for the law enforcement who deal with the mentally ill, and pass on grant and other funding opportunities to the task forces.
When the committee first met, there were two mental health courts in Ohio: one in the Akron Municipal Court, presided over by Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, and a substance abuse/mentally ill (SAMI) court in Butler County Common Pleas Court presided over by Judge Michael Sage (his court differs from the Akron court because it targets felony-level dually- diagnosed offenders, i.e...