TOMS (Together Optimizing Mental-Health Solutions) Court In comparison with Treatment Court, TOMS Court is an extremely young program, having only been founded in 2017 under the leadership of Judge Brewbaker after a brief pilot program to assess the feasibility of the program. The TOMS Court acronym is in dedication to Judge Brewbaker's father Tom, who committed suicide after a long battle with depression that he ultimately lost. TOMS Court aims to create a positive for families and participants alike and helps to coordinate treatment with pro-social and personal development for the participants. Furthermore, even in cases where a person is not an appropriate candidate for the program but who suffers from MH issues, the treatment team is able to provide guidance for where applicants should apply for treatment due to the number of county programs available to residents that are partnered with the court.
A person need not be facing a state prison sentence to be eligible for this program as it is recognized that unlike drug addiction, one does not wake up in the morning and choose to be mentally ill; rather they are most likely to be the most vulnerable of all persons who have interaction with the criminal justice system and usually those lease "at fault" for their behaviors. Participants engage in the program for at minimum 12 months to obtain stability and build the life skills that they need to be successful in society.
To qualify for TOMS Court, a participant must have a serious mental illness (such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder) and must be willing to engage in mental health treatment. Unlike treatment court, the team will entertain applications for persons charged with any offense that a person's mental illness has led to the charge or created the circumstances for the offense to have occurred. Once accepted, participants receive even more individualized treatment than those in treatment court due to the highly variable nature of mental illness. Participants work with a forensic case manager who coordinates their mental health services, are assigned a probation officer trained in assisting those with mental illness, and may be referred to any number of county, state, or federal programs to facilitate learning to maintain their mental health.
As a younger program, funding is much tighter for TOMS Court than treatment court. Much of the therapy that participants receive is paid by their insurance, or in limited cases, through partnership with the drug and alcohol commission for persons with a dual diagnosis of MH and drug dependency concerns. Furthermore, there are fewer state and federal programs giving money to MH courts than there are programs available to fund treatment courts. Despite limited funding, however, the program has already helped to make huge improvements in the participants' lives and for their families.
The program has graduated two successful participants so far, and is set to graduate 3 more after the new year. Currently, 22 participants are actively involved with the court, and 8 more are pending entry or are applying. Only two participants have been terminated from the program unsuccessfully, and both are the only persons to date who have been involved with the program who have picked up a new charge. For a population of participants with debilitating illnesses such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, this is an incredible early start for the program.
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