The Mahoning County Juvenile Court has added a sixth specialty docket, a mental health docket, which now has 13 young participants and is designed to address mental health issues that contribute to crime.
The mental health court program, which began operating last November and generally will take six to 18 months to complete, enrolls youthful offenders with professionally diag- nosed mental illnesses, including mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders.
The enrolled offender admits his or her delinquency and is placed on probation, with his or her sentence suspended as long as he or she attends counseling, submits to random drug screenings and complies with other program requirements.
“We have students who struggle with mental health issues, and, when you identify your mental health issue, and then learn how to treat it, control it and work with it, you don’t let it control you,” said Judge Theresa Dellick.
“The benefits are you control, you understand your illness. You learn how to live with it, and, most likely, you will not commit another offense,” Judge Dellick said of the benefits of mental health court. On the court’s regular docket, “You do not get that attention,” she added.
“Why wait until they’re in the adult [criminal justice] system, after having 30, maybe 40 years of living with this mental health issue?,” she asked.
“It also helps to address it as a family because some mental health issues are genetic, and, here in juvenile court, we can address the whole family. In adult court, you can’t,” the judge explained.
Other specialty dockets in Mahoning County Juvenile Court serve substance abusers, sex offenders, students in the court’s Mahoning County High School, parents in danger of losing custody of their children, and youths re-entering the community after serving time in state detention facilities or community corrections facilities.