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LEE COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH COURT PROGRAM:

Welcome to the Lee County Mental Health Court Website for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Florida.


INTRODUCTION & PROGRAM GOALS

The Mental Health Court program is a voluntary alternative to the traditional court system. A defendant may be referred by his or her attorney, but final acceptance is determined by the Court, pursuant to Florida Statute 394.47892. The defendant must have a severe persistent mental illness, must have some correlation between the offense and the diagnosis; and voluntarily agree to enter the program and participate in mental health treatment. Once accepted, the defendant and mental health professionals develop a Court Supervision Plan that must be approved. Assistance and treatment is coordinated throughout the program and progress toward goals is monitored closely. A participant must attend regular court appearances and must meet conditions of probation when applicable.

The Lee County Mental Health Court program was developed as an effort to identify and address the unique needs of people living with a mental illness who have entered into the criminal justice system. The intent is to improve public safety by helping these individuals continue to be productive, responsible members of the community.

The Lee County Mental Health Court program is a voluntary alternative to the traditional court system. A defendant may be referred by his or her attorney, but final acceptance is determined by the Court, pursuant to Florida Statute 394.47892. Defendants must meet the definition of an adult with a Severe and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI).

  • Dimension I – Principal diagnosis of serious mental illness as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5). (Schizophrenia or other Psychotic Disorders; Mood Disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder; Anxiety Disorders; or a combination of disorders sufficiently disabling).
  • Dimension II – Unable to support oneself, perform activities of daily living, behave in ways that do not bring attention of law enforcement for odd or dangerous acts, persistence of disability, continuously or episodically for at least a year.

There must be a clear nexus between the mental illness and the criminal offense.

Defendants must agree to voluntarily enter the program and participate in mental health treatment.

Once accepted, the defendant and mental health professionals develop a Court Supervision Plan that must be approved. Assistance and treatment is coordinated throughout the program and progress toward goals is monitored closely. A participant must attend regular court appearances and must meet conditions of probation when applicable.

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WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH COURT?

The Mental Health Court program is a voluntary alternative for those formally diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) and is facilitated and supported by Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) employees. The Treatment Courts Manager provides program oversight to ensure the services and team member responsibilities are achieved, including maintaining documentation, database and report maintenance, and establishing collaborative relationships with community service providers. The designated AOC employee attends staffing and court and tracks outcomes while serving as a liaison between the team and the court.

The designated AOC employee will assist with the selection of eligible defendants, the creation of incentives and sanctions, track defendant progress and court outcomes, research effective treatment modalities and facilitate team strategies for the program.

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PROGRAM OBJECTIVES

  • Increase effective cooperation between the criminal justice system and mental health treatment providers in our community
  • Assist select defendants struggling with a mental illness who have committed a misdemeanor or felony offense
  • More efficient case processing, improved access to public mental health treatment and services
  • Improved well-being and quality of life
  • Reduced chance of recidivism through treatment and education
  • Improved public safety for community at large

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PROGRAM CRITERIA

Following arrest, defendants are identified and suitability for the program is determined through a series of screenings intended to promote public safety. Legal counsel explains the program and advises the defendant in making a decision regarding participation.

A Court Supervision Plan is developed cooperatively to specifically address the individual's needs, taking into account existing community resources. The defendant, mental health professionals, and counsel must together agree to the Court Supervision Plan. Entry into the Mental Health Court program is voluntary. Defense counsel continues to provide legal representation throughout the Mental Health Court program. Successful completion of the Court Supervision Plan results in closure of the case either through dismissal of the defendant's charges or possible completion of the probation.

Failure to complete the Court Supervision Plan or discharge from the program results in prosecution on the pending charges or a violation of probation.

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PROGRAM RULES

This is a voluntary program, for which misdemeanor and felony defendants are considered at the discretion of the Court.

  • Have a diagnosed severe persistent mental illness (SPMI)
  • Enter the program voluntarily
  • Attend regular court appearances
  • Establish cooperatively a Court Supervision Plan and follow recommendations
  • Demonstrate progress toward goals
  • Participate in mental health treatment and take medications as prescribed
  • Refrain from engaging in illegal activity; remain alcohol and substance free
  • Random drug and alcohol screens at own expense
  • Meet conditions of probation, when applicable

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PROGRAM COMPLETION

In diversion cases, with successful completion of the Court Supervision Plan, the pending case will be dismissed by the State Attorney's Office. Probation may be terminated or defendant continued on regular supervision. Defendants will be successfully linked with mental health service providers that they can maintain for the future. Family and friends are invited to join the court as the Judge congratulates the defendant for successfully completing the Court Supervision Plan and achieving his/her goals.

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WHO IS ELIGIBLE

  • Must be 18 years of age or older and a resident of Lee County
  • Be willing to participate voluntarily and to comply with any recommended interventions
  • The individual is considered to be legally competent
  • Misdemeanor and felony charges are eligible for Mental Health Court at the discretion of the Court and upon recommendation of the State Attorney's Office; each case is reviewed on an individual basis
  • Must be a clear nexus between mental health diagnosis and criminal offense
  • Must meet the definition of an adult with a Severe and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI)
    • Dimension I – Principal diagnosis of serious mental illness as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5). (Schizophrenia or other Psychotic Disorders; Mood Disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder; Anxiety Disorders; or a combination of disorders sufficiently disabling).
    • Dimension II – Unable to support oneself, perform activities of daily living, behave in ways that do not bring attention of law enforcement for odd or dangerous acts, persistence of disability, continuously or episodically for at least a year.

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LOCATION & TIME

The Honorable H. Andrew Swett presides over the Lee County Mental Health Court program. Court is typically held on Tuesday at 2:30 pm in Courtroom 5G on the 5th floor of the Lee County Justice Center located at 1700 Monroe Street, Fort Myers Florida 33901.

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INFORMATION/CONTACTS

For more information about this program and/or to make a referral, please contact Lee County Criminal Division/Probation at (239) 533-9199. A referral form (download above) may also be submitted. For additional information contact:

Fax Number: 239 485-2510
Administrative Office of the Courts
Lee County Treatment Courts
1700 Monroe Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901

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