LAW WEEK COLORADO
Members of the public are invited to an open house to introduce a new problem-solving court designed to provide treatment and other resources to people with mental illness involved in the criminal justice system.
The Wellness Court, which has 10 clients but capacity for 35, opened in July after more than a year of planning. The open house will run from 4 to 5 p.m. Jan. 15 in Courtroom 3B of the Larimer County Justice Center, located at 201 La Porte Avenue in Fort Collins.
Special guests will include Judge Stephen J. Schapanski, chief judge of the 8th Judicial District, District Attorney Cliff Riedel and Larimer County Commissioners Lew Gaiter, Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly.
The 8th Judicial District’s Wellness Court, like other problem-solving courts in Colorado and elsewhere, helps ensure community safety while providing an alternative to incarceration for people whose mental health issues affect their criminal behavior. Eligibility for the voluntary program is determined by a multidisciplinary team of professionals that includes the Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, the Larimer County Criminal Justice Services Division, Touchstone Health Partners and city and county law enforcement agencies throughout Larimer County.
Clients are held accountable through intensive court supervision. They agree to actively engage in treatment and counseling, and make regular court appearances to monitor their progress.
“We know from experience, not only in this district, but also across the country, that problem-solving courts such as our new Wellness Court are very effective at reducing recidivism among their target populations,” Chief Judge Schapanski said. “They also provide a viable alternative to prison, helping to address budget limitations and overcrowding issues. We’re very pleased to be able to add this court to our other problem-solving courts to help serve a broader range of clients.”
District Judge Julie Kunce Field presides over the Wellness Court, one of nearly 80 problem-solving courts in Colorado. Programs include adult and juvenile drug courts, family/dependency and neglect drug courts, DUI courts, adult and juvenile mental health courts, veteran trauma courts, and truancy courts.