Critical Issues - Court Diversion Programs

The Broward County Mental Health Court

On June 9, 1997, Chief Judge Dale Ross, signed an Administrative Order on behalf of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit (Broward County, Florida) creating the nation's first Mental Health Court. Based upon her expertise in Mental Health Law, Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren was assigned as presiding Judge. The goals of the Mental Health Court are as follows:

  • To humanly and with dignity divert individuals arrested on various misdemeanant types of offenses out of jail and into appropriate psychiatric treatment facilities; as well as to assist defendants secure community based mental health and substance abuse treatment and services.

  • To improve the quality and efficiency of the administration of justice for persons with major mental illness and other serious mental disabilities, including developmental disabilities, severe head trauma and dementia.

  • To work in conjunction with community based mental health providers and hospitals to reduce and/or eliminate the recycling of individuals with serious mental disabilities through the criminal justice systems and civil hospital systems.

  • To assist individuals and families in the Mental Health Court to better appreciate and understand the challenges of recovery and to utilize the Court in a therapeutic manner to support that recovery effort without compromising public safety.

To date more than 1,200 individuals have come through Broward's Mental Health Court. Many of the defendants are chronically homeless and many are educated with job and professional work histories. The Court has experienced great success in its quest to profoundly change the administration of justice for persons with Mental Disabilities. The Court has gained National attention and been covered by CNN and National Public Radio. The Court has also been featured in news articles and professional periodicals across the Country including the ABA Journal. Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, has presented on the Mental Health Court to Jurisdictions all over the country and was chosen to present at The Department of Justice, BJA Partnership Conference for Peace and Justice in the 21st Century held in Washington D.C. this past month.

Broward's Mental Health Court has received numerous awards for innovation and has become the model for other jurisdictions including Seattle Washington and Anchorage, Alaska.

For More Information Judge Lerner-Wren can be reached at Broward County Courthouse, 201 SE 6h Street, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301 (954) 831-7240.

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