Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
King County’s Mental Health Court Marks 10-Year AnniversaryFebruary 24, 2009
On Thursday, February 26th, King County will honor the 10-year anniversary of King County District Court’s Mental Health Court, a nationally-recognized therapeutic court that works to increase cooperation between two systems that have traditionally not worked closely together - the mental health treatment system and the criminal justice system.
To mark the occasion, the King County District Court will host a celebration from 4-6 p.m. in Council Chambers on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse.
“We are so proud of the important work our mental health court performs each day to protect the public and assist those suffering from mental illness to get the treatment they need,” said King County District Court Presiding Judge Barbara Linde. “The work of this Court for the past decade is a testament to how collaborations like this can reduce incarceration costs while also improving lives and protecting public safety.”
With more than 350 “graduates” of the program, King County’s Mental Health Court works to improve public safety by processing cases in a timely manner, improving access to public mental health treatment services, and reducing recidivism for mentally-ill offenders charged with misdemeanors.
The court was inspired by tragic circumstances. Following the murder in 1997 of Fire Department Captain Stanley Stevenson by a mentally-ill misdemeanor offender, King County Executive Ron Sims established a Mental Health Task Force. Chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Robert Utter, the Task Force recommended formation of the Mental Health Court to deal effectively and humanely with mentally-ill misdemeanor offenders to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
The King County District Court’s Mental Health Court was one of the first in the nation, opening February 1999, and provides a collaborative team approach that includes the judge, prosecutor, defender, mental health treatment liaison, and probation officers with specialized education and experience in the mental health field. Currently more than 200 similar courts exist nationwide.
The most common mental health diagnoses for those served by the Court are psychotic and bipolar disorders. Approximately 50 percent are homeless when initially referred to the Court, and at least 80 percent have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. Eligible offenders who choose to participate in the program are linked with services, released to the community with a structured treatment plan, and closely supervised by the Court until the case is either dismissed or closed.
The Court was started under the leadership of King County District Court Judge James Cayce, who was succeeded by Judge Mark Chow. Currently presiding over the Mental Health Court is Judge Arthur Chapman.
Judge Chapman describes the court as changing lives. “At graduation, I always come down off the bench, shake hands with the graduate, deliver a certificate to commemorate the accomplishment and congratulate them,” said Judge Chapman. “The look in their eyes is very moving…they sense again a life of possibility.”
Members of the Stanley Stevensen family will attend Thursday’s celebration which will include a brief program with comments by County Executive Ron Sims and Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. A family member of a Mental Health Court graduate will also speak, to highlight the difference the court made for their family.
Washington Courts Media Contacts:
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|