Las Vegas Designs Mental Health Court to Reduce Prison Costs and Recidivism Rates

The Clark County court system has made a giant step forward in proclaiming justice for defendants with mental conditions ranging from schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder to bipolar and major depression. Many of the people with these problems would not be in trouble with the law if they were given the right attention. The jail is not the place for untreated mental issues, so Clark County has designed a separate mental health court to address those.

Judge Heidi Almase is presiding judge of the newly formed Mental Health Court. She has credentials that include a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a background in mental health. While serving the state of Nevada, she began to identify some of the cases that came through her courtroom, and she knew that they would benefit more from mental health services resulting in reduced recidivism.

These defendants were committing mostly low-level crimes because of their underlying mental issues. Judge Almase believes that the criminal justice system is not the place to treat mental disease, and once they are stabilized, most do not come through the system again.

Judge Almase began networking with mental health providers, rehabilitation and counseling programs to provide the needed treatments for those individuals. Las Vegas City Council approved $110,000 to officially fund the Mental Health Court, and these funds will be better spent than paying $64 a day to house an inmate who would get no treatment or rehabilitation.

Today, the mental health court in Las Vegas has 28 cases and is one step closer to saving money as well as helping with the overcrowding situation in the prisons.