A group of North Carolina legislators is working to prevent people with addictions or mental illness from ending up in jail, says the Raleigh News & Observer. Joe Buckner, chief judge for two local counties, helped launch a Community Resource Court in 2000 that was the first mental health court in North Carolina, bringing together mental health providers, law enforcement communities, and others to address mental health needs and addictive disorders in criminal defendants.
Orange County’s voluntary court-based diversion program is available to defendants not deemed a threat to public safety. Participating defendants must comply with a recommended treatment plan for a minimum of six months and check in with the court once a month. Case managers sometimes help defendants find jobs. “It has a mesmerizing effect on the court workers,” Buckner said. “It empowers their therapeutic outreach.” Buckner wants to work with the district attorney and law enforcement to offer assistance to those with mental health or substance abuse issues who ordinarily would be charged with minor offenses in the current system.