Montgomery County considers forming mental health court

Montgomery County Circuit Court would probably house a future mental health court. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County has formed a task force to investigate the possibility of opening a mental health court that would focus on keeping mentally ill people from offending again after they have committed a crime.

“There is just such a profound need for alternative ways to deal with individuals who come into the criminal justice system with mental health issues,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

“Putting these people simply in and out of the system — it’s just not working.”

The task force, composed of private and public leaders in mental health, will begin meeting in September, with the goal of getting the court up and running by early 2016. The court would likely operate within the county’s circuit courthouse in Rockville.

Dozens of communities nationwide utilize mental health courts, including three jurisdictions in Maryland: Prince George’s County; Hartford County; and Baltimore City.

“The revolving door of criminal justice has to stop, and we can do a better job,” McCarthy says.

Mental health courts work to reduce recidivism by putting offenders under rigorous supervision and helping them find mental health treatment, stable housing and other goods and services.

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