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There's Hope in Summit County Court for Felons with Mental Illness

First participant in the Mental Health Court in Summit County
First participant in the Mental Health Court in Summit County

Summit County is now Ohio’s tenth county operating a special docket court for felony offenders with mental health problems. Monday, the first participant in the new two-year diversion program went before the judge who set it up. 

Judge Alison Breaux, Summit County Court of Common Pleas
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU
Judge Alison Breaux, Summit County Court of Common Pleas

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison Breaux calls it the “Hope Court.”  She says it gives law breakers with mental illness a path to treatment instead of jail.

Like James Spiegel of Barberton, they will each agree to receiving mental health services, and staying out of trouble. Speaking to Spiegel from the bench Judge Breaux laid out the process. “Here’s the deal.  One of the first and foremost things about this program is that you have to be honest with me.  If I find that you aren’t honest we’re going to have problems.  Do you understand that?" After affirming his understanding, the judge asked Spiegel to sign a participation agreements. "This is a contract between you and me and the folks who are going to be here to help you," the judge said. 

Participants can be referred to Hope Court by other judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys and family. Breaux expects to eventually be handling more than thirty cases.

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