Judge Stephanie Rhoades of the Anchorage District Court is a pioneer of mental health courts. She was the featured speaker at the second annual Intermountain Health Court Conference at Utah State University in Logan this week.
UPR's Brianna Bodily talked to Judge Rhoades about the role of mental health courts, starting with an explanation of what a mental health court is and does:
"A mental health court is a jail-diversion opportunity for people with mental health disorders who get charged with crimes. A lot of them get charged with crimes not because they are criminal thinking but they are acting out behaviors that are commensurate with mental health disorders. They do it in public and therefore they get arrested. And they get taken to jail. Unfortunately our public hospitals do not have the capacity to deal with people who are acting out mental health crises and don't meet civil commitment criteria. So, these folks get arrested and taken to jail, which is open 24/7, and they languish there. It does not provide a therapeutic environment for them to treat their mental health disorders. So mental health courts find them, they identify them, they link them up with treatment in the community, they monitor them...and they basically perform through the court a treatment plan."
More information about Judge Rhoades and the Intermountain Health Court Conference can be found here.