By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – A Regional Wellness and Recovery Court to serve Downriver misdemeanor offenders may soon become a reality thanks to the work of Wyandotte 27th District Court Chief Judge Elizabeth DiSanto.
The City Council approved the plan at its Nov. 23 meeting, and, pending review and final approval by the city administrator, the process will be one step closer to becoming a reality.
DiSanto said that, as a presiding judge, she has seen the mental health needs of misdemeanor offenders increase significantly.
“Misdemeanor offenders often do not have the resources or funding available to help them with their mental health disorder,” she said. “After reaching out to many courts in the region, I began the process of establishing a Regional Mental Health Court to serve misdemeanor offenders in the Downriver area.”
Providing services for mental health disorders through the court system has a proven track record of reducing recidivism in the criminal justice system.
Currently, the Downriver region has two Drug and Sobriety Treatment Courts and a Veteran Treatment Court.
DiSanto applied for and received a planning grant, which was awarded in November 2019 by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office.
She said that during the past year, she has worked with the Guidance Center and other team members to establish policies and procedures, a participant handbook, the needed forms, incentives and sanctions, and to establish the needed positions within the court team. The planning group observed similar courts and attended training.
An operational grant has subsequently been approved by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, and the local administrative order was submitted and approved for the establishment of the regional mental health court.
Once the Wyandotte city administrator has reviewed the city council’s resolution of approval, the document will be submitted for the operational grant.