The San Diego Superior Court has launched a new Behavioral Health Court, similar to Drug Court. The purpose of the program is to break the cycle of incarceration for San Diego's mentally ill by providing high-intensity, individualized treatment, supervision, and custody alternatives. It is a collaborative effort among several government agencies including the district attorney's office, the public defender's office, sheriff's department, probation department, City of San Diego, and County Mental Health Services.
The Behavioral Health Court is funded with Prop. 63 monies and has been in development for one year. The focus is on treatment to restore health and reduce crime. Probationers who have been diagnosed with a mental illness will be eligible for this program.
"The effort is truly directed toward public safety," says Robert T. Trentacosta, the presiding Behavioral Health Court judge. "Instead of incarcerating someone with a mental illness and then sending them back into society, this program will offer eligible defendants medical treatment and, in some cases, job training which will help them rejoin society as law-abiding, productive members."
Sessions of Behavioral Health Court are currently being held in Department 24 at the downtown courthouse; however, the goal is to eventually offer the program throughout San Diego County.