Creating the court comes after local organizations, law enforcement agencies and political entities spoke in favor of establishing the program. The mental health court, under Comal County Court at Law 3, will hear criminal and civil cases, Comal County Court at Law 3 Judge Deborah Linnartz Wigington said.
For criminal cases, the court will establish a voluntary five-phase program for adults charged with a misdemeanor and diagnosed with mental illness, with the goal of diverting mentally impaired offenders from the criminal justice system, Wigington said.
“The most common outcomes we're seeing is reducing recidivism, homelessness, reducing the number of days people are spending in county jail,” Wigington said of similar programs throughout the state.
The court will also establish a program to assist adults suffering from mental illness who do not have associated criminal charges.
“Many courts in Texas already have a criminal track, very few have a civil track,” Wigington said at the June 24 meeting. “We will be on kind of the cutting edge of mental health in providing this civil track.”
Agencies like Hill Country Mental Health Development and Disability Centers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Children’s Advocacy Center of Comal County and more will collaborate with the court to provide services for those appearing before the court and their families.