Larry Roberts
Fayette County Attorney

201 East Main Street
Suite 600
Lexington, KY 40507

Phone:
(859) 254-4941

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MENTAL HEALTH DIVERSION COURT

The Mental Health Diversion Court in Fayette County grew out of a two-year process of community meetings aimed at addressing issues of homelessness and criminalization of mental illness. The Court's purpose is to provide an alternative to the traditional revolving door of jail/hospital/street for people with severe and persistent mental illness. These individuals are at a high risk of frequent arrest due to conduct resulting from their symptom burden. The Court uses a therapeutic model of jurisprudence to connect participants with services to support them in their recovery.

Candidates for Mental Health Diversion Court include accused criminal defendants charged with Class A or B misdemeanors or with nonviolent felony offenses in District Court. They are required to undergo a mental health status evaluation or to provide other documentation of an appropriate diagnosis. Once accepted, participants begin attending weekly court sessions, as well as recovery group sessions. The Court Coordinator monitors participants to ensure that they attend all required sessions and remain compliant with appropriate therapy and medication. Because so many people with a mental illness also struggle with substance abuse, the Court may order random drug screens and attendance at addiction recovery groups, if appropriate.

The Mental Health Diversion Court began as an unfunded program with all members of the treatment team volunteering their time for staffing and court sessions. Since then, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government awarded NAMI Lexington a three-year grant to help fund the Court. These funds allowed a full-time Mental Health Court Coordinator to be hired. The remaining team members are volunteers from the legal and mental health professions, including Kentucky Peer Specialists. These individuals, also diagnosed with mental health or co-occurring substance use disorders, have been trained by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to provide social and emotional support to others who are similarly diagnosed.

This program currently has participants with diverse backgrounds, diagnoses, and legal histories. Our referrals have come from defense attorneys, family members, mental health professionals, and police officers concerned about obtaining help for mentally ill individuals engaged in criminal behavior. Our treatment team has assisted participants with finding housing, appropriate therapy, and sponsors for those who are struggling with addiction. The Mental Health Diversion Court held its first session in November, 2014 and is celebrating more than a year of helping mentally ill individuals inside the criminal justice system.