The Court is supporting people with critical mental health needs who are being released early from New York City jails.
The Brooklyn Mental Health Court offers treatment in lieu of incarceration to people charged with both violent and non-violent offenses.
As it continues to work with clients using remote protocols, the court is supporting people with critical mental health needs who are being released early from New York City jails as part of the city’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.
"We have been working with a wide array of agencies to put together crisis treatment plans in a very short period of time for people with serious and diverse needs," says Ruth O'Sullivan, director of the Mental Health Court. "It's been an intense and stressful period but all of these agencies have come together in an incredible, collaborative effort to ensure that the clients have the supports and services they need to maintain stability in the community.”
Here are two of clients they've recently helped.
Facing an Urgent Health Risk, a Participant Finds Shelter and Support
L.J. was a Brooklyn Mental Health Court client who was jailed after leaving a residential program earlier this year. Citing the urgent health risk, her attorneys successfully petitioned for her release. L.J. has a serious mental illness, in addition to learning disabilities, which makes it difficult to place her in a residential program. Mental Health Court staff helped to place her in a shelter specifically for women with mental health needs and to assign her to a community-based treatment team for ongoing support. Often people with serious mental health diagnoses have unpredictable needs. Such was the case with L.J., who stopped her medication after entering the shelter and decompensated rapidly. EMS was stretched too thin and couldn't take her to the hospital but O'Sullivan was able to reach someone at the Office of Mental Health, who assisted the court in having L.J. taken to the hospital where she remains. She is doing much better psychiatrically now and has completed her intake with the community-based treatment team, O'Sullivan says.
A Participant Leaves Jail with Community Supports
J. is a young client who has been working with the Mental Health Court for some time. Recently sent to Rikers Island, his attorney requested J.’s release. The judge consented only if the court could ensure J. would continue to receive services in the community. Our staff member Thomas Bellinger, who had already been working with J., worked with staff at Rikers to secure J. an appointment at a community-based program, and jail staff were able to provide J. with his medication and a referral to a shelter. Once released, our staff member spoke to J. and a referral was made to a community-based treatment team for additional support. Court staff also mailed a phone to J. to ensure he can stay in regular contact with our staff member.