Palmer Mental Health Court
Palmer Coordinated Resources Project
What is the Palmer Coordinated Resources Project?
The Palmer Coordinated Resources Project (PCRP) also known as the Palmer Mental Health Court - is a voluntary "therapeutic" or "problem-solving" court located within the Palmer District Court that hears cases involving individuals diagnosed with mental disabilities who are charged with misdemeanor and low level Felony offenses and focuses on their treatment and rehabilitation. Created in 2005, the PCRP is a post-booking diversionary response to the problem of "criminalization" - the increased likelihood that people with mental disabilities will be processed through the criminal justice system instead of the mental health system - observed in the Matanuska-Susitna area.
What is the Purpose of the PCRP?
The Palmer Coordinated Resources Project (PCRP) is a specialized therapeutic court which employs a problem solving approach to criminal case processing for eligible Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA) beneficiaries to reduce the high numbers of beneficiaries in Alaska’s criminal justice system. Defendants who experience mental disabilities are more frequently jailed and detained longer than defendants who do not.
Additionally, the PCRP acts to:
- Preserve public safety;
- Reduce inappropriate incarceration of mentally disordered offenders and promote their well-being;
- Relieve the burden on the Department of Corrections presented by inmates with mental disabilities;
- Reduce repeated criminal activity among mentally disabled offenders (legal recidivism); and
- Reduce psychiatric hospitalization of mentally disabled offenders (clinical recidivism).
Who is Eligible?
Anyone charged with a misdemeanor or a low level felony offense crime who is diagnosed with a mental disability, is a Mental Health Trust Beneficiary, resides in the Mat-Su Borough, is eligible for treatment in the community and wishes to voluntarily participate in the treatment oriented court process in lieu of traditional bail or sentencing conditions will be considered for participation. For more information please contact the Project Coordinator at 907-746-8142; khull@ak courts.us.
How are People Referred to the Court?
Anyone can refer a person to the PCRP. Police, correctional staff, lawyers, friends, family members, community behavioral health providers, judges and court staff can refer a case by simply contacting the Project Coordinator and indicating that a Defendant may be eligible to have their cases heard in the PCRP.
How Do the Coordinated Resources Projects/Mental Health Courts Work?
The Court diverts eligible offenders with mental disabilities from jail and into appropriate community treatment, focusing on the individual therapeutic and criminogenic needs of the defendant. Research demonstrates that individuals with mental health disorders who adhere to treatment requirements cycle through jails and hospitals far less often (Ferguson, Hornby and Zeller, 2008). With the second generation of mental health courts we follow criminal justice research that emphasizes the importance of addressing criminogenic needs when the case plan is developed. Criminogenic needs1 are factors that are predictive of recidivism.
Collaborative team approach: An important highlight of the CRP is to provide a single point of contact for a criminal defendant with a mental health disorder. The project provides a multidisciplinary team of designated and trained judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and probation officers who consistently participate in court hearings. This approach builds a base of knowledge and understanding about the individual’s therapeutic and criminogenic needs and goals. This approach also provides maximum access and accommodation for individuals with cognitive challenges who are interfacing with the criminal justice system.
Community Treatment: A defendant is eligible to receive assistance from the projects in developing, coordinating and monitoring an individualized case plan. The court orders that plan as a condition of bail or probation. Participants are monitored by Probation Officers who work exclusively with the CRP projects. CRP Probation Officers are employed by the Division of Behavioral Health, Alcohol Safety Action Program. Probation Officers provide treatment and resource matching, linkage to and monitoring of the case plan.
Monitoring by the Court: The court monitors the participant’s adherence to the case plan through regularly held status hearings and receives reports on the participant’s progress. If treatment non-adherence occurs, the court may adjust the plan to motivate adherence or employ non-jail-based sanctions or incarceration.
1 Criminogenic needs are risk factors associated with recidivism that can be impacted or changed with appropriate interventions. Criminogenic needs include problems with relationships (martial/family dysfunction), substance abuse problems, lack of education/employment, lack of pro-social leisure activities, anti-social peer group, and anti-social attitudes and values.
The PCRP meets on Tuesday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. in the Palmer Courthouse. Judges Greg Heath, William Estelle and David Zwink preside.
Court is open to the public. Additional information and brochures are available by contacting the Project Coordinator at 907 746-8142 or by e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in observing court, please call to confirm that court in being held on its regularly scheduled day. The number to call is 907 746-8142.
Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs publication: Emerging Judicial Strategies for the Mentally Ill in the Criminal Caseload: Mental Health Courts in Fort Lauderdale, Seattle, San Bernadino and Anchorage.