The mission of the Benton County Mental Health Court is to address the unique needs of individuals with mental illness which impacts their criminal behavior. The court uses a strengths-based perspective to monitor, hold accountable, and provide support to participants as they engage in community-based mental health services essential to living lives free of the criminal justice system.
Members of the Benton County Mental Health Court Team are:
- Judge, Katy Butler
- Behavioral Health Specialist\Probation Officer, Jaime Flores
- Public Defender, Dawn Hickman
- Prosecuting Attorney, Megan Killgore
- Program Manager, Tara Symons, MSW
- Legal Process Assistant, Denise Kautzky
The Benton County District Court Mental Health Court began operating in April, 2016. Referrals are being accepted on an on-going basis. Referrals should be faxed or delivered to the Mental Health Court Office located in District Court. All referrals will be screened for eligibility. If eligible, the defendant will be contacted by the Mental Health Court Program Manager to schedule an appointment.
Participation in Mental Health Court is strictly voluntary. To be eligible, an individual must be charged with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor crime in Benton County District Court, or have a felony-reduction from Benton Court Superior Court. Individuals must have a diagnosable mental illness which is severe, persistent, and in some way was a factor in their crime.
Circumstances which would make an individual ineligible for Mental Health Court include: active warrants in other jurisdictions, previous history of a sex offense, history of a severe violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, or cases in which a firearm was involved in the commission of the crime. This is not an exclusive list of exclusionary criteria. Please see the participant handbook or contact a member of the Mental Health Court team for more information.
About the program:
Mental Health Court is a program designed as an alternative to incarceration with emphasis on treatment and accountability for qualifying mentally ill individuals involved in the Benton County criminal justice system. Taking more of a therapeutic approach than the traditional justice system, participants are provided with support and resources to help improve their quality of life while improving safety and use of resources in our community.
The Mental Health Court program is 12-24 months and available to defendants with a primary diagnosis of a serious and persistent mental illness. Examples of acceptable diagnoses: bipolar, schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder. The participant must either stipulate to the charges brought against them or already be sentenced and on probation.
Participants appear in court frequently and meet with a case manager and/or Mental Health Court probation officer regularly. The program is divided into four phases, each with its own goals and requirements. Participants receive case management support which can assist in referral to community services such as housing assistance, inpatient/outpatient treatment services, medication management, help applying for benefits and job training assistance. The Mental Health Court team works together to tailor services to meet each individual’s needs so that there is the best possible chance of success.
The Mental Health Court office is located in District Court. You may contact the Mental Health Court office by calling (509) 735-8476, extension 3353, or by fax (509) 222-3758.