Mental Health Court: A Specialty Court We Should All Embrace

In the state of Michigan, one type of specialty court that is starting to gain traction is the “Mental Health Court” which allows people that have psychological issues to be given an alternative to incarceration. A specialty court is a unique concept but also comes with economic constraints as there will be a need for new staffing to run the program. To learn more about “Mental Health Court” programs, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state of Michigan to discuss the topic. 68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan and he provided commentary when he said, “The concept of the Mental Health Court is one that provides a lot of relief to those in need. We learn that many times a criminal defendant has had their mental deficiencies overlooked. While the screening process is rigorous, this provides a beneficial option to those in need.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate at Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan and has also practiced in the state of New Jersey. Amadeo provided commentary when he said, “After experiencing specialty courts in New Jersey and Michigan, I can safely say that Michigan is way ahead of the curve on this issue. In Washtenaw County, we are lucky enough to have Judge Karen Valvo, Pat Chase and Karen Finney who have been true pioneers in helping our community with the Mental Health Court in the 15th District court. Recently, I was appointed to the Shiawassee County Mental Health Court team, and I can tell you that the process is not an easy one. The jurisdiction needed to obtain a grant and then put a qualified staff together. What I will expect from our mental health court team is for the criminal defense attorney not only to advocate but substantiate why their client deserves this option. The concept is amazing, but the implementation will take a lot of hard work, and we need to be up to the challenge.”

Matthew McManus is the managing member of McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When asked for his thoughts, McManus stated, “We are definitely in a better place to help those in need than we have been in a long time. Many years ago, there were no such options so while we are moving in the right direction, the direction needs to be a continuous one. There will be failures along the way, and the last thing we want to see is someone being expelled from a specialty court when they have the best of intentions.”

When we look at the future of criminal defense, Specialty Courts are becoming an alternative to criminal prosecution in the same fashion that mediation has become an alternative to litigation. The future is bright, but much work needs to be completed for us to be successful in this transition.