The Fort Bend County Courts system has updated its Misdemeanor Mental Health Court for this year into a two-tier program, allowing specific individuals the opportunity to enter into pre-trial diversion contracts.

The updates were done by Fort Bend County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Christopher Morales and Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton.

The contracts give first-time defenders who are suffering from a mental illness the opportunity to successfully complete probation and not have a criminal record impact their lives years down the road.

“We are providing them with the keys to success,” Morales said. “And with their success, society as a whole benefits. We see lower jail costs, reduced crime rates and lives completely turned around. Whether it is the veteran living down by the river we helped find housing, a job, and stability, or the housewife struggling to manage her depression, we are changing lives.”

Misdemeanor Mental Health Court was created by Judge Ben W. Childers in 2010 to serve a growing population within the criminal justice system. The court is designed to provide an individually tailored treatment plan to misdemeanor offenders living with mental illness.

These resources include connecting offenders with doctors and governmental services, medication compliance oversight, intensive probation supervision and impatient/outpatient treatments.

The purpose of the court is to provide these specific offenders with access to resources that reduce recidivism rate and increase the likelihood that they will return to society as productive citizens.

“I am excited and proud to be a stakeholder in the mental health court,” Middleton said.

“It takes a team approach to identify, treat and manage the many faces of mental illness. It is a responsibility we owe our communities – to do better when we know better.

“So as we understand more, we change the program to enhance its success. Justice should be dynamic.”

For more information about Misdemeanor Mental Health Court, visit the court’s website at www.fortbendcountytx.gov or contact County Court at Law No. 1 at 281-633-7415.

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