Cobb County Mental Health Court celebrates ten years providing treatment and accountability

photo of Cobb Superior Court building from the front with a blue sky with clouds in the background

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Ann B. Harris led a group of officials and supporters in a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the count’s Mental Health Court (MHC).

The MHC was created to provide an alternative path for individuals whose violations are the result of behavioral factors that are best addressed by treatment, counseling and a system of supported accountability, rather than by the punitive and often ineffective route of incarceration.

“Today’s celebration is not just a feel-good moment,” Judge Harris told the gathering. “We celebrate meaningful, lasting achievements, like changing the lives of our MHC graduates, enriching the lives of their families, and enhancing the safety and well-being of our community. Mental Health Court seeks to address the unfortunate intersection of mental illness and our criminal justice system and the cost and futility of incarcerating those afflicted with a mental illness who could be safely treated in the community with proper medication, counseling, and court oversight.  Today, we mark the progress we have made, and continue to make, in restoring these individuals to a crime-free life of mental wellness and sobriety.”

The court was created in 2013 by Judge Mary Staley.

“First, I’d like to congratulate Mental Health Court for a successful ten years of service to our community,” said Cobb District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell.  “In Cobb, we are fortunate to have the accountability courts that other jurisdictions model after and the participants that benefit from this program.  A special thanks to Judge Mary Staley for having the vision to initiate mental health court and to Judge Ann Harris for continuing the success of the program.”

To read more about the ceremony, and about the Mental Health Court, follow this link to the article on the Cobb County website.

About the Accountability Courts

Materials distributed by Cobb County Superior Court describe Cobb’s four accountability courts as follows:

“Cobb Superior Court has four such courts: Drug Treatment Court, which includes both regular and intermediate tracks; Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court; Mental Health Court; and Parental Accountability Court. Various county and state offices collaborate with the judges and staff in operating individual accountability courts.”

The purpose of the accountability court program is to provide an alternative to incarceration for individuals who need counseling and treatment rather than punishment.

Drug Treatment Court

The website for the Drug Treat Court describes the program and its two tracks as follows:

“Drug Treatment Court is an accountability court designed to manage individuals with substance addiction by providing an alternative to the traditional justice system.  

“The Court Is designed to improve the health of our participants, not only by addressing the immediate symptoms of their addiction but also orienting participants to a new way of healthier living which can be continued for the rest of their life.

“The Cobb County Drug Treatment Court offers two programs.  

“The regular track is an 18- to 24-month program, dealing with high-risk, high-need participants. 

“The Intermediate track is a 12- to 18-month program for participants diagnosed with a mild to moderate substance use disorder and deemed a lower risk of re-offending. A risk-needs-responsivity assessment is completed to determine participant placement.”

Mental Health Court

The website for the Mental Health Court describes that court and its mission as follows:

“Mental Health Court is a 24 month minimum, voluntary, pre or post-plea, judicially supervised, treatment-based program for those individuals with a documented mental health diagnosis.

“The Cobb County Mental Health Court strives to improve mental health, promote self sufficiency, reduce recidivism, and offer cost effective alternatives to incarceration and hospitalization. 

“A Mental Health Court represents an effort to increase effective cooperation between two systems that have traditionally not worked closely together – The Mental Health System and The Criminal Justice System. 

“The program will hold participants accountable while assisting them in achieving long term stability, becoming successful family/community members, and remain law abiding citizens.”

Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court

The Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court website describes that court as follows:

“Cobb County Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court (VATC) seeks to divert eligible veteran defendants with substance dependency and/or mental illness that are charged with criminal offenses, to a specialized criminal court. 

“The court substitutes a treatment problem solving model for traditional court processing.

“The veterans voluntarily participate in a judicially supervised treatment plan that a team of court staff, veteran health care professionals, veteran peer mentors, and health care professionals develop with the veteran. 

“At regular status hearings, treatment plans and other conditions are periodically reviewed for appropriateness, incentives are offered to reward adherence to court conditions, and sanctions for non-adherence are handed down.”

Parental Accountability Court

The website for the Parental Accountability Court describes its purpose as follows:

“PAC seeks to address underlying issues that make it difficult for non-custodial parents to pay child support while providing judges with an alternative to incarceration in civil contempt cases.

“The program uses a team approach to meet participants’ needs as they become more accountable for supporting their children.  

“Members of the Parental Accountability Court Team include the Judge, Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG), Parental Accountability Court Coordinator (PAC-C) from the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Child Support Services (DCSS), DCSS local Office Manager, and representative(s) from the Cobb County Community Services Board (CSB).”

For more detailed information about the accountability courts visit this link to the Superior Court’s Accountability Court website and explore the specific programs you are interested in learning about.