In 2009, the Chatham County Juvenile Court began Georgia’s First Juvenile Mental Health Court.  This innovative problem-solving court is a process of identifying and managing the behavior of children who have been adjudicated delinquent and whose mental health makes it unlikely that they will be successful on traditional probation.

The mission of the Chatham County Juvenile Mental Health Court is to improve community safety through a system of specialized probation by collaborating with and linking families to community resources in order to aid children in becoming law-abiding contributors to Chatham County.

In this past year, the Juvenile Mental Health Court has continued to expand and grow. Last year there were 825 Checklists completed by the Juvenile Court probation staff, which means that we are now systematically screening every child for whom a petition is filed. From those Checklists, there were 253 mental health assessments which were completed by a Licensed Clinician, which included a full report of what mental health services were needed along with a recommendation for any other needed intervention.

Also, this past year 39 children were staffed at our predispositional staffing which is comprised of our various community partners including: the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Board of Education, DFCS, Coastal Georgia Comprehensive Academy, the Savannah Chatham Police Department, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, as well as other agencies who serve children in this community. The staffings were able to refer an additional 9 children to our JMHC as well as provided individualized, community plans for the other 30 children so they could be successfully and safely maintained in the community.

The children who participated in the JMHC showed great success this past year. Since JMHC started in April 2009, we have had 21 children with their families participate. Four of those children graduated and 14 are still actively making strides towards graduation. In terms of success, our recidivism rate is low. As a group, prior to participating in the JMHC they had a total of 170 adjudicated offenses which included: 73 misdemeanors, 20 felonies and 4 designated felonies. As a group, after entering the program, they had a total of 14 adjudicated offenses which included: 11 misdemeanors, 3 felonies and no designated felonies.