El Paso is Taking Steps to Establish Mental Health Court
When a person has a mental illness, their symptoms can range from being mild to acute. Depending on the severity, access to care, resources, and other factors, a person with a psychiatric or psychological condition may end up in the criminal justice system rather than getting the care they need. Over the past few decades, court systems nationwide have responded by starting specialized mental health courts designed for this population.

Mental health courts are designed to identify those needing treatment and divert them from incarceration. According to the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, mental health courts have grown from only four in 1997 to over 300, with programs in almost every state. Recently, El Paso joined the growing number of U.S. cities making plans to establish a mental health court to serve its community. In early February, El Paso County approved a $200,000 grant application to help fund the INSPIRE Treatment Court, a program for individuals with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorder.

The INSPIRE (Independence, Namaste, Safety, Purposeful, Insightful, Resilience, Empowerment) program is designed to be an alternative to incarceration for adults with felony cases in pre-trial and post-plea stages. In addition, the program's goal is to help promote recovery and reduce recidivism. According to a recent report, INSPIRE will prioritize serving those with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression.

El Paso County already has a mental health court program for juveniles, Project Hope, operated in partnership with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), that serves juveniles. In addition, the county also offers other specialty court programs such as veterans court and DWI court. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office also has a crisis intervention program designed to respond to mental health-related calls and expanded its crisis intervention teams.

The program pairs deputies with Emergence Health Network clinicians to respond to calls involving a mental health crisis, with an emphasis on de-escalating tense situations. The program estimates that its crisis intervention teams have prevented 700 people from entering the criminal justice system unnecessarily. The program’s teams also diverted most of the served population to outpatient services or mental health facilities instead of unnecessary hospitalization in emergency rooms.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation, contact us or call (509) 991-7058.

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