JOLIET | Will County has established a special Mental Health Court designed to provide judicial monitoring and treatment services to qualifying criminal defendants who suffer from mental illnesses.

The mission of the special court is to establish a team that closely monitors qualifying criminal defendants while providing them with comprehensive mental health services. 

Candidates must be diagnosed as having a mental disorder or a co-occurring disorder, the latter of which is a mental illness combined with and an addiction.

The voluntary program includes mandatory drug testing, sanctions, incentives and professional support to keep defendants on track.

The team includes Circuit Judge Sarah Jones coordinator Julie McCabe-Sterr of the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Woods, who will serve as the prosecutor.

The Mental Health Court call was convened for the first time on Tuesday, and the team agreed to evaluate 10 prospective candidates for possible participation in the program.

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"Our most important objectives are to protect the community and to seek justice by holding offenders accountable," State’s Attorney James Glasgow said. "That’s why we want to make certain in advance that every participant will benefit from the comprehensive services provided through this program.

"The entire community, however, benefits when those who suffer from mental illnesses learn to manage their conditions so they can function in society by holding down jobs, pursuing educations and paying taxes. For every dollar we spend on a prevention program where we deal with the root causes of crime, we save $10 to $20 in remedial costs."

Each defendant will be screened, and anyone who has been convicted of or charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, a sex offense, armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, stalking or any offense involving the discharge of a firearm will be barred from participation. Defendants charged with other crimes may not be allowed to participate depending upon the unique circumstances of their individual cases.

Mental Health Courts were inspired by the success of other problem-solving courts,      including drug and domestic violence courts.

There are eight mental health courts in Illinois and more than 200 across the United States.

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