The Oklahoma County Mental Health Court, the first such court in the region, is a recipient of a 2004 Journal Record Innovator of the Year award.
Launched in November 2002, the court is designed to divert defendants with serious mental illnesses from jail and prison into community-based treatment.
With 12 participants in 2003, court officials estimate it saved taxpayers about $150,000. Studies show that for each participant diverted from the jail and prison systems, $20,000 is saved per year. This represents both the amount saved from prison or jail expenditures for incarceration of a mentally ill person, as well as the alternative expenses associated with the court's monitoring of a participant's compliance with the prescribed treatment.
In 2004, the court plans to expand services to at least 25 participants for an anticipated savings to taxpayers of more than $350,000.
The court was established by a coalition of representatives of state agencies and the private sector, including District Judge Nancy Coats; Kelly Basey, assistant district attorney; Genie Baumann, assistant public defender; Bill Crye, Department of Probation and Parole; Kiedrian Fennell, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Edith King, forensic psychologist; Nancy Petree, Oklahoma …