The Ada County Felony Mental Health Court strives to reduce recidivism of some severely and persistent mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system and provide the community protection with a cost-effective, integrated continuum of care through the development and utilization of community resources. Mental Health Court holds defendants accountable and assists offenders to achieve long-term stability, become law-abiding citizens, and contribute positively in relationships with family members, friends, and the community at large.
There are three primary ways in which Mental Health Court helps reduce recidivism among program participants:
- Mental Health Court supports participants in achieving and maintaining stability with respect to their mental illness,
- Mental Health Court supports participants in achieving sobriety and helps them gain the tools necessary to maintain long-term sobriety; and
- Mental Health Court helps transform criminal thinking into pro-social thinking that encourages participants to make better choices about their actions.
Other goals include reducing the costs associated with criminal processing, incarceration, and recidivism.
Who is eligible for Mental Health Court?
Mental Health Court participants include felons who are severely and persistently mentally ill. Their diagnoses include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and severe, chronic depression, sometimes with psychosis. Not all mentally ill felony offenders qualify for Mental Health Court. Registered sex offenders are not eligible. Participants must reside in Ada County and be capable of complying with program requirements. Applicants must be referred by District Court judges and evaluated by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare.
Many Mental Health Court clients have a co-occurring disorder, meaning that in addition to having a mental illness they are also diagnosed with a substance use disorder.
What agencies work together to support Mental Health Court?
Mental Health Court is an interagency program. Primary partners outside the Fourth District Court include Idaho Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole; Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Region IV Forensic Assertive Community Treatment Team; Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; Ada County Public Defenders’ Office; Ada County Sheriff’s Office; Office of Consumer and Family Affairs; Ascent Behavioral Health; National Alliance on Mental Illness (“NAMI”), Boise Chapter; and many other community service providers of housing and other services. The Honorable Steven Hippler, District Judge, presides over the Mental Health Court. The Mental Health Court Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator are members of the Fourth Judicial District Trial Court Administrator’s staff.
How does Mental Health Court Work?
All participants are placed on felony probation and must follow all rules and regulations of felony probation in addition to Mental Health Court rules. The program proceeds in four phases.
Participants are evaluated on an individual basis to determine treatment plans, which address the specific needs and strengths identified for each participant. All participants receive psychiatric support and medications through the Region IV FACT Team; compliance with medication recommendations is required.
Common program elements include weekly visits with the probation officer, weekly appearances in court, classes that can include Intensive Outpatient Drug Treatment, Dual Diagnosis Group, Cognitive Self Change, Moral Reconation Therapy, Symptom Management, individual or other group therapy, random drug testing up to seven days a week, daily contact with staff, home visits, employment services, housing support, assistance in accessing public benefits, attendance in sobriety self-help groups, and more. Participants are evaluated weekly for progress, which is reported to the Judge. The average duration of the program is 18 to 20 months.
How does someone get referred to Mental Health Court?
ALL Mental Health Court referrals are initiated by a District Court Judge. Defense counsel can request referrals for felony defendants who meet certain criteria as defined in the Mental Health Court Referral Checklist. If the criteria on the checklist are met, and if the District Judge agrees to refer the defendant for evaluation, a Mental Health Court Application Packet is filled out and returned to Mental Health Court. The IDHW FACT team evaluates applicants for eligibility for Assertive Community Treatment services, and eligibility information is communicated to the Mental Health Court Team and Judge. The Mental Health Court Judge makes the final determination regarding acceptance.
Please see the Ada County Mental Health Court Program Guide for a full description of the program.
Mental Health Court: Laura Kiehl, Coordinator – 208 287-7507
Mental Health Court Judge: Honorable Steven Hippler
Felony Mental Health Court Probation Officer: Gabriel Hofkins – 208 327-7008
Mental Health 24-Hour Mobile Crisis Line: 208 334-0808
Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team 208-334-0979
Region IV Mental Health Clinic: 208 334-0800