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Pilot mental health program new to miami criminal courts

Posted on November 02, 2009 3:00 AM EST

Miami criminal courts have recently added a pilot program to aid mentally ill people through the justice system. Judge Deborah White-Labora, who currently runs the Miami drug court program is taking on this pilot project. The drug court program was instituted years ago to help defendants with drug addictions. The program is onerous because takes one year to successfully complete. Counseling and weekly narcotics anonymous meetings are required. The program is open anyone arrested and charged with cocaine possession, marijuana possession and heroin possession, etc. Those enrolled in the program are eligible to have their drug charge dropped if they successfully complete a yearlong treatment program. Once the charge is dropped, the record is eligible for expungement.

Individuals charged cocaine trafficking or marijuana trafficking, of course are not eligible to take advantage of the program. For years, Miami criminal lawyers have used the drug court program to avoid having clients enter pleas and receiving probation or short jail sentences. However, before someone enters the drug court program, it would be wise to seek advice from a Miami criminal attorney. A skilled Miami criminal lawyer can many times win a simple drug possession case without putting their clients through the year long program.

Like the drug court program, the new Miami mental health program will assist certain defendants suffering from mental health issues. Individuals are required to be enrolled in the program for one year and have to take their required medications and attend all necessary mental health counseling. The program has been given a $330,000 budget which will allow for the hiring of six new employees, money for housing and medication, as well as for transportation expenses.

Of course the program will not be available for all offenders. Enrollment will be offered depending on the mental illness, the charges for which the person is being prosecuted and the person's criminal history. Those charged with violent crimes with a long criminal background will most likely not be admitted into the program. The program will also assist enrollees in applying for and receiving social security benefits which will assist in paying for living and mental health treatment expenses.

Court Program for Mentally Ill Allows Treatment, The Miami Herald, October 31, 2009.
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