LORAIN COUNTY COMMON PLEAS COURT

WELLNESS MENTAL HEALTH COURT

Program Overview

The Lorain County Common Pleas Wellness Mental Health Court (“Wellness Court”) is a specialized docket program offering targeted treatment for offenders who have been diagnosed with a severe or serious mental illness where such illness was a primary factor leading to their involvement in the criminal justice system.  This Program Description provides a comprehensive explanation of the Wellness Court, including its written policies and procedures, defined goals and objectives, and the roles and responsibilities of its Advisory Committee and Treatment Team members.  

Mission Statement

The Wellness Court provides offenders who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness that contributed to their involvement in the criminal justice system with access to treatment and resources necessary to establish accountability, independence, and stability, ultimately decreasing their interaction with the criminal justice system and improving their overall quality of life.  

Target Population

The Wellness Court serves Lorain County residents who are charged with felonies and have a severe or serious mental illness which has led to criminal justice involvement and for whom community-based, court-monitored treatment would provide the ability to lead self-sufficient, law-abiding lives. In addition, the offender must meet legal and clinical eligibility criteria and is subject to the admission and termination criteria developed, reviewed, and agreed upon by the Advisory Committee. 

Referral Process

The Wellness Court supports the referral of all potentially eligible defendants for review under these policies and procedures.  Referrals may be made formally and informally from many sources, including: Judges, attorneys, prosecutors, case managers, self-referral, police officers, pre-trial services, probation officers, jail staff, or others. Wellness Court Treatment Team members shall pass along referral information to the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer from all sources.

The formal referral process initiates upon a request from a Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge for Wellness Court assessment.  Each Judge has a pre-printed Referral Form available in every courtroom. The Referral Form states that the Wellness Court Treatment Team shall complete an assessment to determine eligibility.  Once an offender is referred, legal screening will occur first and then if appropriate a clinical assessment for eligibility will be provided. 

Screening and Assessment 

Potentially appropriate participants will be screened for legal eligibility and clinical appropriateness.  Information gathered by the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer will be presented at the next Treatment Team meeting for review and final determination of eligibility by the Wellness Court Judge.

Once a defendant is referred to Wellness Court, an appointment shall be scheduled immediately with the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer.  During this initial meeting, the defendant shall provide information related to criminal history and past mental health and/or substance abuse treatment.  During this meeting and before undergoing the clinical assessments, potential participants must sign a Release of Information Form to provide for communication of confidential information, participation and progress in treatment, and compliance with the requirements of the Wellness Court and applicable law, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), 42 U.S.C. 300gg-42, as amended, and R.C. 2151.421 and 2152.99.  Release of Information Forms must also be completed for any and all treating physicians or clinicians with whom the potential participant is being treated. 

The potential participant should expect to provide or allow the following information to be shared with the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer:

  1. All chemical dependency, mental health, and other programming assessments, which shall include available collateral information to ensure accuracy of the assessment.

  1. All screenings and assessments for treatment determinations provided by clinicians that are appropriately licensed and trained to deliver such services according to the standards of their profession.

Program Coordinator/Probation Officer will refer the defendant for a clinical assessment and assist the defendant in scheduling the necessary appointments. 

Legal Eligibility Screening 

Prior to the initial meeting, the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer shall review the potential participant’s file to make an initial assessment and to review any disqualifying factors, including, but not limited to, residency, criminal history, and other relevant information. 

During the initial meeting with referred participants or prior to the completion of the clinical assessment, the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer shall do or ensure the following: 

  1. Explanation of the program shall be provided to the defendant along with the Participant Handbook and Participation Agreement.  Any questions shall be answered about the program phases and expectations.

  1. An explanation of the guilty plea requirement shall be provided to the defense attorney.

  1. The potential participant’s attorney shall provide to the defendant an explanation of the legal requirements of the Wellness Court and address any questions regarding the participant’s rights and waiver of those rights as stated in the Participation Agreement. 

  1. An initial review of any disqualifying factors shall be reviewed by the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer including residency, sex offender status, history of serious violent crimes and/or weapon charges.

  1. The Defendant shall complete Release of Information Forms, review privacy rights, and exchange pertinent contact and treatment information.

The Program Coordinator/Probation Officer shall forward referral information to the designated Wellness Court Prosecutor for review on any pre-plea referral.  The Program Coordinator/Probation Officer and Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office may make recommendations to the Treatment Team regarding placement into the program. 

The Treatment Team may consider the following factors when reviewing legal eligibility:

  1. The offenders’ risk of reoffending and degree of services needed.

  1. Mitigating and aggravating circumstances of current or prior court involvement will be considered.

  1. A careful examination of the circumstances of prior juvenile adjudications. 

  1. The age of potential disqualifying offenses is considered. 

Should the legal assessment and/or clinical assessment find the referred defendant ineligible for program participation, the referring Judge shall be notified by the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer, who shall be available to explain program disqualification factors.

If the referred defendant is found eligible, the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer shall notify the referring Judge.  The Program Coordinator/Probation Officer shall consult the attorney, defendant, and Judge to confirm the decision to transfer the case to the Wellness Court.  The Administrative Judge shall sign an entry transferring the case to the Wellness Court and the case shall be scheduled before the Wellness Court Judge.

Clinical Assessment 

All offenders will be promptly referred for assessment and to appropriate treatment services. Upon a referral from the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer, the participant shall be assessed by a licensed clinician in order to determine whether the potential participant meets the Wellness Court’s written clinical eligibility criteria and is, otherwise, appropriate for the Wellness Court. 

The assessment shall occur as soon as possible. The assessor shall determine whether the potential participant has a qualifying diagnosis, whether the individual is appropriate for the level of treatment provided in the Wellness Court, whether the individual is willing to utilize treatment resources, and any other factors that may affect the potential participant’s likelihood of success in the Wellness Court. The assessment shall include a diagnosis and treatment recommendations, which shall be provided to the Program Coordinator/Probation Officer. The assessment shall also include available collateral information to ensure the accuracy of the assessment. The Program Coordinator/Probation Officer will provide the results to the Wellness Court Judge and Treatment Team for review.  A final determination of admission to the Wellness Court will be made by the Wellness Court Judge, in accordance with the written eligibility criteria.

Should an individual be found to be ineligible for the Wellness Court, the clinical assessment report shall include recommendations for available alternative treatment options, and this information will be provided to the Judge with whom the potential participant was originally assigned. The offender’s case then will proceed in the traditional manner in front of the originally assigned Judge.  

Program Admission

Final admission to the program will occur once the defendant appears before the Wellness Court Judge.  The Wellness Court Judge shall review the Participation Agreement and details of the Wellness Court with the defendant.  

The defense attorney shall review the Participant Handbook with the defendant, which includes the rules, regulations, expectations and graduation criteria of the Wellness Court.  As a voluntary program, the defendant may decide at any point that they do not wish to participate in the Wellness Court. The Wellness Court Judge shall make the final decision as to admission to the program.  Once the defendant makes a first appearance and officially enters the program, they will be ordered to meet with members of the Treatment Team.  

The specialized docket promptly assesses individuals and refers them to appropriate services. Participants will be referred to the appropriate treatment providers once the assessment has been completed. All participants will be actively engaged with treatment by their second Wellness Court appearance.  Participants will also be placed under reporting supervision to monitor compliance with Wellness Court requirements.

Please refer to the following linked documents for more detailed information:

Wellness Court Program Description

Wellness Court Participant Handbook

MH Court Participant Agreement 

Wellness Court Referral Form