Behavioral Health Court
The 22nd JDC Behavioral Health Court (“BHC”) is a problem-solving court established to work one on one with people suffering with mental illness/co-occurring disorders and also involved with the criminal justice system. Judge Peter Garcia founded and presided over BHC from inception in November, 2011 through February, 2020. Judge Alan Zaunbrecher currently presides over this problem solving court. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of St. Tammany, a mental health advocacy organization, is an integral part of the BHC.
Reduce recidivism of individuals in the criminal justice system that have mental illness/co-occurring disorders and provide community protection with a cost effective, integrated continuum of care through the utilization of community resources. The court is used as a therapeutic agent to improve the quality of lives within the community. By holding defendants accountable and helping them to achieve long-term stability, participants become law abiding citizens and successful family and community members.
BHC is voluntary, Though included as a condition of probation. Benefits of successful completion may include reduction in the term of probation, dismissal of criminal charges, and reduced or suspended incarceration.
- Adherence to scheduled sessions, meetings, and appointments made by the providers
- Medication Adherence
- Compliance with Drug and Alcohol testing
- Attendance at regular court appearances
General Program Requirements Include:
Referral and Eligibility
Potential participants may be identified at the time of arrest, arraignment or probation revocation hearing and are referred by judges, defense counsel, district attorneys, and probation officers. The problem-solving courts of the 22nd JDC of Louisiana work collaboratively to ensure the most appropriate placement for non-violent offenders. Defendants are screened for eligibility. Passing the screening process does not guarantee admission into the program. Acceptance is made on a case-by-case basis.
- Evidence of a serious and persistent mental illness (as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.)
- Defendant has been convicted and sentenced (post-adjudication) and is eligible for probation (misdemeanor or felony). Individuals charged with murder or sex offenses are not eligible.
- A mental health issue was likely a factor in the offense.
- Defendant’s mental illness has seriously impacted quality of life and without added conditions of the court is likely to become non-compliant.
- Willing and amenable to behavioral health treatment and the recommendations of the treatment provider.
- Has the mental and cognitive capacity to handle the structure of BHC.
- Has a valid home address in St. Tammany parish. If defendant lives in Washington Parish, he/she must have reliable transportation to attend status hearings.
- Willing to sign releases of information to all necessary treatment providers and collaborators.
- Agree to refrain from alcohol and drug use (other than approved medications).
- Submit to random drug testing.
General Eligibility Includes:
Participants are assigned a case manager once the defendant has been assessed as eligible for the program. The participant is oriented to the BHC program and an individualized case plan is developed. The case manager will help the participant connect with appropriate treatment resources and communicate regularly with the participant’s provider. Linkages to other services and resources are provided as needed such as transportation, self-help meetings, peer support services, and housing. Monitoring by the case manager includes overseeing compliance with required activities such as drug screens and attendance at treatment appointments. The case manager is responsible for collecting and reporting information to the court at weekly staffings held prior the status hearings.
Behavioral Health Court Team
- District Judge
- Administrator/Program Coordinator
- Case Managers
- State Probation And Parole
- 22nd JDC Misdemeanor Probation
- Treatment Providers
- Act Team
- District Forensic Coordinator
- District Attorney’s Office
- Public Defender’s Office
- Community Liaisons/Ancillary Services
- NAMI St. Tammany
- Education Specialist
- Clerk Of Court
Judge Peter Garcia
“Treatment providers and law enforcement see many of these people over and over again as they go in and out of treatment, on and off their medications, and in and out of jail. Through judicial oversight, intensive probation, drug screening, treatment and case management, arrests decline and treatment, medication and behavior become more consistent.”
Judge Peter J. Garcia
The BHC Program is not one that society can afford to lose. After my mother’s suicide in 2005 I fell into the grip of crack addiction. Over the next 9 to 10 years, my life was out of control and I was helpless to stop it. I found hope at first, but when countless rehabs didn’t work, I just accepted that this was my life now.