Similar to Drug Court, providing alternatives to incarceration for defendants with mental health disabilities is borne out of the idea that offering treatment is both a more fiscally responsible option and one that will decrease the chances a defendant will recidivate.
In December 2015, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office was awarded a grant from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General to support the establishment of a mental health diversion program. Known as Hunterdon County’s Mental Health Intervention and Treatment Program (MIT), the goal is to incorporate a treatment plan when resolving cases so defendants with a mental health diagnosis will receive immediate medical treatment. While already a partner in the Hunterdon County Partnership for Health, the Prosecutor’s Office established a formal partnership with the Hunterdon Drug Awareness Program to divert and manage defendants primarily charged with third- and fourth- degree crimes from jail (some second-degree offenders may be included on a case-by-case basis) and into supervised treatment and appearances with the MIT panel.
“In 2015, a relationship ended for me. It brought back a lot of my past childhood memories. I began to drink to numb my feelings and became severely depressed. I became angry and had angry outbursts. Inevitably there was police involvement. I was arrested and had serious charges brought against me. My nursing license was revoked. I became very embarrassed. I was overcome with severe fear and depression that left me suicidal. I was hospitalized several times for suicide attempts. I drank while taking medication for depression and anxiety. I had adverse effects and began calling the police on myself. No one wanted to be around me…not even me.
The circumstances of my life have changed dramatically. If not for this program, I would’ve gone to prison for 18 months. The MIT Program started me on my journey. I do hope that others will be able to benefit from the hope, the light, the vision, intuition and the resolve that this program has reawakened within me.”
– Hunterdon County Mental Health Intervention and Treatment Program participant
A defendant is expected to remain in MIT for one year, accrue no new offenses, participate in all aspects of their recommended treatment, and appear in Drug Court when necessary. Since December 2015, 54 defendants have been diverted into MIT and 12 have successfully received dismissal of their charges based upon their treatment and program compliance.
For more information about the Hunterdon County Partnership for Health and its work to build a healthier community, contact project director Kim Blanda at email@example.com
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