The Office of the Public Defender continues to be actively involved in Juvenile Mental Health Court (JMHC). JMHC, which began operating in October 2001, is a comprehensive, judicially-monitored program for juvenile offenders with diagnosed mental health disorders or learning disabilities and whose crimes demonstrate a link to the disorder or disability. A collaborative inter-agency team consisting of a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, consulting psychiatrist and psychologist from UCLA, and an educational consultant/advocate develops an individualized case plan for each eligible youth referred to JMHC. The plan includes home, family, therapeutic, educational and adult transition services. A deputy public defender with the assistance of psychiatric social workers advocates on behalf of the youth to secure mental health services from all available community resources.
The deputy public defender works with the family, local mental health organizations, school districts, the Regional Center system, the Probation Department, and DCFS to obtain for the youth every benefit to which he or she is legally entitled. Implementation of the plan is monitored intensively on an ongoing basis for one to two years or as long as the youth remains on probation. One goal of JMHC is to reduce recidivism in the mentally ill population.
Since its inception in October 2001 through June 2014, the JMHC has accepted 637 youths and the Public Defender represented 528 of those youths. In fiscal year 2013-2014, the JHMC accepted 56 new cases, 41 of which are serviced by the Public Defender’s office.