Mental Health Court Eligibility Criteria

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The First Circuit’s Mental Health Court (MHC) considers admitting defendants originating in Circuit Court, Family Court, and District Court. Candidates may have prior convictions, and candidates may have opted not to participate in the program in the past. Candidates who successfully graduated from the program in the past may be considered by the MHC team for re-entry to the program on a case-by-case basis. Persons facing probation revocation also may be considered for entry to the MHC as a condition of re-sentencing. The MHC team has discretion over admission to the court, and each referral is considered on a case-by-case basis. The MHC team must reach consensus on a decision to admit an individual, and then the presiding MHC judge makes the final decision whether or not to admit individuals recommended by MHC team consensus.

To be eligible for the MHC, candidates must…

  • be eighteen (18) years or older, or be waived to adult court.
  • have a serious and persistent mental illness1 (SPMI), as determined by mental health professionals, that appears to be the primary motivating factor in the person’s involvement with the criminal justice system. Chemical dependency shall not be the primary diagnosis. Severe and persistent mental illnesses (SPMI) are diagnoses that result in emotional, cognitive, or behavioral functioning which is so impaired as to interfere substantially with one’s capacity to remain in the community without treatment, psychosocial rehabilitation services, and other community supports of a long-term or indefinite period. The mental disability is severe and persistent if it results in long-term limitations in one’s functional capacities for even the primary activities of daily living, such as interpersonal relationships, self-care, homemaking, employment and recreation. Example (though not exhaustive) primary diagnoses, which follow, have been identified as eligible for Continuing Services by the Hawaii Department of Health’s Adult Mental Health Division:
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Delusional disorder
  • Depressive disorder (major, recurrent depression)
  • Bipolar disorders
  • have a minimal history of violence. Some with violent offenses may be considered if assessment by the MHC team indicates that they do not pose a significant risk to public safety. As is true in all cases, team consensus on a decision to admit an individual is required before the judge makes the final determination.
  • be legally competent to proceed.
  • be considered amenable to treatment.
  • reside on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Exclusions from the MHC are based upon the following:

  • Violence
  • Sex offenses (A program for sex offenders already exists.)
  • Chemical dependency as the primary diagnosis or reason for involvement in the criminal justice system (A criminal Drug Court Program already exists.)
  • The jurisdiction where the crime occurred (For the MHC program, offenders must be under the jurisdiction of the main court rather than the country courts.)

1Serious and persistent mental illnesses, according to the Hawaii Department of Health’s Adult Mental Health Division, are those that have continued or are likely to continue for more than twelve (12) months and result in functional impairment that interferes with the person’s ability to function independently in an appropriate and effective manner.

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