Mental health court opens

Posted on Jul 05 2021

The CNMI Supreme Court established a Mental Health Court Docket on July 3, 2021, and adopted the Northern Mariana Islands Mental Health Court Policies and Procedures governing the court docket set to take effect by mid-July.

The Mental Health Court Docket is a specialty court docket that brings together criminal justice agencies and mental health professionals to identify and treat participants with underlying mental health issues. The MHC docket is created within the existing structure of the Superior Court’s general docket. It is a voluntary program and utilizes a non-adversarial model to provide participants with treatment, rehabilitation, medication management, criminal justice services, and social support services. The program also assists eligible veterans and service members to access mental health treatment in lieu of incarceration. The program shifts the traditional criminal court’s focus from criminal processing to therapeutic healing.

The NMI Judiciary MHC Docket Policies and Procedures describe entrance requirements and protocols for successful program completion, defines the roles of the collaborative MHC team members, and provides guidance for proper case flow management and adherence to national best practices standards.

“We have been planning the MHC Docket for a number of years but funding constraints have hampered our efforts,” said Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro. “The Judiciary is hopeful that with the assistance of our partners, CHCC, the Attorney General’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office and all the treatment providers, we will have another successful treatment program.”

“And, as mentioned previously, the Supreme Court will be closely monitoring this new court docket to make sure it serves the needs of our islands,” Castro added.

Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja will spearhead the MHC together with a team composed of representatives of the Office of the Attorney General, Office of the Public Defender, and Department of Public Safety, Department of Corrections, and other treatment providers.

The MHC docket supplements Drug Court, the first treatment court, established in 2015. Drug Court Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio and Drug Court manager Edward P. Diaz assisted in setting the groundwork for MHC Docket.

The Supreme Court Order and NMI Judiciary MHC Docket Policies and Procedures will soon be available on the Judiciary’s website, (PR)

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