Mental Health Diversion Programs In Pennsylvania
Everyone who has watched a courtroom drama has probably seen someone accused of a crime use the “insanity plea.” The common understanding is that simply claiming to be insane will result in complete elimination of any charges and allow the accused person to go free. However, mental health issues in the criminal justice system are much more complicated than that. There are a couple of programs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that offer alternatives to prison and treatment for various mental health issues in certain circumstances. These can be a great option if you’ve been accused of a crime, but there are numerous complications and nuances involved.
Only an experienced, committed attorney can help you through the process to get access to the right solutions and court programs for you. At Thompson Law, our lead attorney has 15 years of criminal defense experience in Scranton and throughout Lackawanna County. He takes a personalized approach, taking the time to get to know each client and working closely with them to determine the best course of action. If there is a court diversion program that fits your needs, we will find it.
Mental Health Diversion Options
In Pennsylvania, there are two primary options for mental health court diversion, one for misdemeanor charges and one for felony charges:
1. Misdemeanors: The Mental Health Court – Competency
This court applies to defendants who have been found legally incompetent to appear on their own behalf in the regular courts due to mental illness. Eligible candidates must be either serving a sentence or have active cases pending.
This court orders mental health evaluations and treatment through a couple of different facilities.
These cases continue until competency has returned. Then they usually go back to the original court.
2. Felonies: The Mental Health Court
The mental health diversion court for felony cases generally apply to people serving a sentence or probation for nonviolent felony crimes in Pennsylvania. Technically, this is a “reentry” program rather than a strictly diversionary program.
In general, this court focuses on problem-solving alternatives to incarceration. The program works with eligible participants to help them prepare for reentry into supervised, community-based treatment programs.
This felony mental health court program can be extremely helpful for those with mental health issues who have already been convicted of felony crimes.