A disproportionate number of people in jail and prison have mental illness and jails and prisons have become our country’s biggest providers of mental health care. Here in the Charlottesville area, at least one member of our community living with a serious mental illness is booked into the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail every day.
Partner for Mental Health is working at the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system. We are committed to finding solutions that help criminal justice involved individuals with mental illness access high quality treatment, keep our community safe, and have long lasting positive outcomes. With the right interventions it is possible to help people with mental illness improve their quality of life, prevent future episodes of incarceration, and save the criminal justice system money.
The Charlottesville and Albemarle Therapeutic Docket is one of these interventions. The Therapeutic Docket, established in February 2018, is a jail diversion program for non-violent defendants whose mental illness contributed to their criminal charge. It is a collaborative effort of Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville that takes defendants about a year to complete. Upon successful completion of the program, the defendant’s criminal charges are either dropped or, if not dropped, no period of incarceration is ordered.
Partner for Mental Health provides Systems Navigation to Therapeutic Docket participants, helping them successfully connect to the care and support they need to meet their recovery goals and improve their social determinants of health. We also serve on the Therapeutic Docket’s Advisory Board, helping set Docket policies and evaluating its operations.
Until his retirement from the bench on May 31, 2019, Judge Robert H. Downer presided over the Therapeutic Docket and was its strongest advocate. Judge Downer’s commitment to finding a better way for his court to engage with defendants with mental illness is why our community has the Therapeutic Docket today. Partner for Mental Health is grateful for Judge Downer’s service to our community!