On April 29, 2004, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out of Committee S. 2107, a bill to reauthorize through 2009 federal funding of Mental Health Courts. The bill is expected to pass the full Senate.
S. 2107 was introduced by Senator Mike DeWine (R. Ohio) and co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D. Vermont), Pete Domenici (R. New Mexico) and Richard Durbin (D. Illinois). A companion bill, HR 3924, has been introduced by Congressman Ted Strickland (D. Ohio) and is pending in the House of Representatives.
The nation's first Mental Health Court was created in Broward County, Florida in 1998. Today, there are 93 such courts in existence around the country. Thirty-six of these courts have been funded in whole or in part through the Federal Mental Health Courts program. For specific state by state information about the 93 courts currently in existence, go to Mental Health Court Survey. For more information about the Federal Mental Health Courts program, visit the Consensus Project.
The efforts of Senator DeWine in the Senate and Congressman Strickland in the House to reauthorize this important program are the latest in a series of legislative efforts these individuals have undertaken to promote alternatives to incarceration for people with serious mental illnesses. For example, Senator DeWine and Congressman Strickland are also the lead sponsors of the "Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act" (S. 1194; HR 2387), a bill that would authorize $100 million for states and communities to use for a variety of purposes, including jail diversion, treatment of individuals with serious mental illnesses while incarcerated, and community reentry programs. S. 1194 has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. For more information and to write to your U.S. Representative urging support for HR 2387, use our online advocacy tool.