Mental health court starting up in Juneau

The long-expected mental health court based on the therapeutic court model is getting underway in Juneau.

Juneau District Court Judge Keith Levy described the new court during a panel discussion Monday night on recividism.

He said the program, officially called the Coordinated Resources Project, is funded by the Mental Health Trust. Defendants charged with city misdemeanors could get their charges reduced if they follow through with mental health treatment.

Because each disgnosis is different, each individual plan is very, very different. It’s not like a fixed period of time. Generally people will be in the program for six-months to a year. But really what we do is at the outset, we set goals. When they achieve the goals, then the idea is that they then get released from the program.”

Levy has been presided over Therapeutic Court since its restart about six years ago. Those admitted to the 18-month structured diversion program usually plead guilty to their DUI charge. But they also benefit from reduced jail time, regular court monitoring, and ongoing treatment that reduces their likelihood of reoffending.

While there is no hard data compiled from the Juneau court, Levy says similar therapeutic courts in Anchorage and Bethel have demonstrated dramatically reduced recividism rates of only 28-percent.

Anecedotally, he can only recall one successful graduate of Juneau Therapeutic Court who was later convicted of another DUI.

Judge Thomas Nave will preside over the Therapeutic Court on Wednesdays as Judge Levy gets the new mental health court up and running on Thursdays in Juneau District Court.

The explanation of the new mental health court was part of a larger panel discussion on recidivism on Monday night. It was organized by Juneau People for Peace and Justice and moderated by retired Supreme Court Justice Walter Carpeneti.

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