ELYRIA — The Lorain County Probate Court on Monday began the New Journey Court, which is an assisted outpatient treatment track for people with serious mental illness.
Assisted outpatient treatment delivers outpatient treatment under court order to adults with severe mental illness who meet specific criteria, such as a prior history of hospitalizations or arrests.
“AOT has been shown to greatly increase medication adherence, reduce costs from hospital readmission and promotes mental health recovery,” Lorain County Probate Court Judge James Walther said. “This is not a cure-all, but it is an important piece of the mental health puzzle. A person should not be required to commit a crime as the price for admission to receive mental-health treatment.”
With the creation of the court, families across Lorain County have an additional tool to help their loved ones who struggle with serious mental illness, Walther said.
“It is about the best tool we have to help people who have to help people who have trouble with engaging in treatment for severe mental illness, through no fault of their own,” said Brian Stettin, the policy director of Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va. “People are caught in this revolving door, where they are coming into hospitals again and again, stabilized, released and disengaging again and going through this tragic cycle repeatedly.”
The New Journey Court is collaborating with the Stepping Up Initiative in Lorain County. Stepping Up is a national effort to divert people with mental illness from jails and into treatment. The number of people with mental illness in the jail system has reached crisis levels, Walther said.
Assisted outpatient treatment programs are believed to reduce rehospitalization, reduce arrest and jail visits, reduce revictimization, reduce serious acts of violence, reduce costs and reduce harmful behaviors, Walther said.
Before a program participant is released from the hospital, he or she is given an outpatient treatment plan and a court date. The program participant is assigned a case manager with a local service provider.
The treatment team collaborates on a treatment plan, while also providing assistance for housing, transportation, employment and so on. The probate judge and the participant meet in court to discuss the participant’s progress, treatment plan adherence and future goals.
There are now 15 assisted outpatient treatment programs operating in Ohio, including in Cuyahoga and Summit counties, Walther said.