Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio, who currently handles the CNMI Drug Court, spoke about the necessity for more specialty courts in the CNMI—namely a mental health court—in an interview after the proclamation signing of CNMI Drug Court Month last Thursday.
“What I think all of us judges have realized being on the bench is that we have an increasing number of people who are committing crimes because they have a mental health illness,” said Kim-Tenorio.
While the concrete details for what services the mental health court will provide is still in the works, Kim-Tenorio explored the possibilities of programs that would set a treatment regimen for those that put off taking their mental health medication, help those that have not completed schooling receive their high school diplomas (typically referred to as GEDs), and ensure that the people participating in the mental health court’s programs have a Medicaid or insurance card so that they can get annual checkups.
“It’s a holistic approach. We heal the whole person, not just one part. …We want to help people be part of our community again in a positive manner,” said Kim-Tenorio.
When asked about the working timeline for the opening of the mental health court, Kim-Tenorio hopes to see the court open by the end of the summer. “I’m being ambitious. I’m hoping we can get this off the ground by July,” she said.