Macomb County Court

A mental-health court is planned to open Jan. 1 in Midland, a court system designed to help those who are convicted of crimes and have a mental illness.

42nd Circuit Court judge Stephen Carras, introduced and will oversee the program, the Midland Daily News reported.

"The people that we're seeing on probation, and the kinds of issues that we're seeing on probations, they're not just the traditional criminal behavior driven by substance abuse or economic need – there's a growing issue of people doing what they do in large part because of some serious mental disorder," Carras told the newspaper.

Justice Elizabeth Clement, the Michigan Supreme Court’s liaison to the 188 problem-solving courts in the state, drafted legislation authorizing those courts, which include Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts and Veteran Treatment Courts.

The programs “focus on providing treatment and intense supervision to offenders, resulting in improved quality of life, reduced crime, safer communities, and avoiding costly incarceration,” according to the Michigan court website.

Kristina Zwick, an assistant to Carras, pointed to a fiscal 2018 Problem-Solving Annual report finding that 65 percent of the 2,984 participants discharged from a drug or sobriety court had successfully completed the program, while 29 percent were discharged unsuccessfully.

Clement said these programs weren’t easy, but give hard-working graduates “a new beginning and a second chance.”

“Make no mistake: Drug and sobriety courts, mental health courts, and veterans treatment courts are not easy and certainly not a free pass,” Clement said in the report. “These programs are tough and participants undergo strict supervision, frequent testing, and much-needed treatment. Not everyone graduates and some would rather sit in jail than do the work necessary for a healthy and complete recovery.”

The report cited Ivy Calkins, a graduate of St. Clair County Mental Health Court.

“They gave me a chance in mental health court,” Calkins said. “Judge Tomlinson wasn’t going to give up on me. He knew I had potential, and he showed me a completely different side of the court system. He showed me that courts can help. I really appreciate the program and the people involved in it.”

The State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) funded eight pilot mental health programs from fiscal years 2009 to 2014 when the program expanded to 20 active programs.

That number grew to 33 in January 2019, with 27 mental health courts for adults and six juvenile courts.

The report found graduates of an adult drug court program are two times less likely to be convicted of a new offense within three years of admission.

The report said 46 percent of all problem-solving participants successfully completed the program.

The recidivism rate for the mental health court participants one year after completion was 4 percent, compared to the comparison group’s recidivism rate of 22 percent.

Four years after entering the program, 34 percent of mental health court participants were convicted of a new offense, compared to the comparison group’s 59 percent recidivism rate.

The court opens eight days before the Michigan Task Force gives recommendations to reduce Michigan’s jail population, which has nearly tripled from 1970 to 2016, although Michigan is at a 50-year low crime rate.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.