Mental Health Docket

The Mental Health Docket operates in cooperation with area community mental health agencies to provide intensive supervision to offenders living with the challenges of mental illness.  The Cleveland Municipal Court has recognized the need for behavioral health services, case management and supervision for clinically diagnosed mentally ill and/or developmentally disabled offenders to remain in the community and function as healthy, law-abiding citizens and to reduce the likelihood that they will come back into the criminal justice system as offenders. 

The Judges of the Cleveland Municipal Court identify defendants with possible mental health issues.  An assessment of the defendant is made via in-depth interview by the Court Psychiatric Unit to determine whether the defendant is a candidate for the Mental Health Docket, currently under the direction of Judge Emanuella Groves.

If eligible, after placement into the program the offender may be linked to a variety of community programs and agencies with the assistance of specially trained Probation Officers.  Certain offenders may be offered a full range of services provided by agency providers, including forensic psychiatry, medication management, intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment for dually diagnosed offenders, partial hospitalization services and support services.

The Mental Health Docket received Specialized Docket Certification from the Supreme Court of Ohio on August 15, 2014 and continues to grow at a rapid pace as the number of individuals coming into the criminal justice system with mental health issues increases.

Honorable Emanuella Groves
Mental Health Docket Judge

The Cleveland Municipal Court’s Mental Health Docket has been under the direction of Judge Emanuella Groves since October, 2016. Under her leadership, significant changes have been made to increase the positive impact the docket has on its participants.

“Many mental health offenders are here by chance, not by choice. They did not choose to be mentally ill, however, they can choose to manage their mental health well,” said Judge Groves.

Judge Groves hit the ground running when she took over. The first thing she did was require all the people on her team, including her, be certified in crisis intervention. The 40 hour course covers information on mental illness and de-escalation techniques. Next, Judge Groves felt it was important to focus on the mental health of each participant in a therapeutic-like setting. This meant a location change from the court house. The crisis intervention training was critical in anticipation of moving the docket.

In securing an off-site location for the docket, some agencies were reluctant and extremely concerned in providing space for criminal defendants with mental illnesses. However, Jeffrey Patterson, Executive Director, of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, permitted usage of the Carl Stokes Social Service Mall on Woodland Ave. without hesitation.

The crisis intervention training has come in handy on several occasions. When a participant experiences a mental health crisis and their behavior becomes erratic, they are transported by court staff to the hospital, not jail. With the assistance of mental health professionals, a protocol has been established so the behavior is treated as a medical emergency, not as a criminal act.

Since Judge Groves took over the docket, many participants have successfully completed the program. Completion of the program is no longer referred to as a graduation.

“It’s now a recognition ceremony. We celebrate their efforts in maintaining their mental health and personal development. You don’t graduate from having mental illness, but you can celebrate the progress in successfully managing your mental health,” said Judge Groves.

As part of the program, defendants are involved in gardening and art therapy programs. These initiatives help improve their mental health and personal development. In November, 2017, The Supreme Court of Ohio recertified the Cleveland Municipal Court Mental Health Docket and the Ohio Mental Health Addiction Services Board allocated $150,000 in grant money for treatment, housing and recovery support. The funding will be used for emergency housing, financial support for housing and peer training for both past and present qualified participants who will be trained and paid a stipend upon completion.

Because of her passion and efforts to improve the outcomes of this specialized docket, Judge Groves is getting attention from the mental health professional community. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Cleveland recently named her winner of the Cultural Competence Health Award.

“I am extremely excited about the efforts we have undertaken to better serve the people who participate on this docket,” said Judge Groves.

For more information about the Mental Health Docket please contact:

Jaclyn Harasimchuk
Mental Health Docket Coordinator
(216) 664-3911

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