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California's Chief Justice: Every County Needs Mental Health Court

Judge Larry Brown presides over Mental Health Court in Sacramento County. Cupcakes for participants are on the table in front of them.


In Sacramento Superior Court's Mental Health Court, there are plenty of congratulations and plenty of cupcakes for people who used to be known as defendants but who are now known as participants. They stand before Judge Larry Brown. An attorney updates the judge on the status of a participant.

"I am happy to report his drug test was negative." Brown responds, "Great! That's terrific. Good job."

Judge Larry Brown gently reminds one of the participants in the County's mental health program that progress involves a little work, "None of this punishment. It's all about having part of a structured program, right?"

On this day, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye sits in the jury box as an observer. She  says only 27 of the 58 counties have a mental health court.

"When you give people treatment and they get on some kind of service-provider program, they tend to re-offend less -hence the reduction in recidivism, hence less of a cost to the community -law enforcement, jails and institutions."

Judge Brown keeps the conversation friendly and encouraging, "The big thing is having you go to some of the classes, right?"

Trina Martin was also in court to support her son DaVonte. She says the court and Judge Brown have helped her son get treatment for his mental health problems and helped him gain independence.

"It should be like that in every county -the way they here right now -the judge and all that-they should be like that everywhere.

Cantil-Sakauye says the state legislature has made $15 million in one-time funds available to counties to create "collaborative" courts -including mental-health courts.

But, some of those counties may not be able to afford to continue the courts once the initial funding has expired.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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