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The Savannah-Chatham Mental Health Court (MHC) is a voluntary five phase program for adults who have been charged with one or more criminal offenses in Chatham County, Georgia and who are having difficulty with serious and persistent mental health issues and, in some cases, substance use disorder. MHC is a judicially supervised program designed to hear cases involving individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

 MHC does not excuse offenders in their criminal responsibility, but rather ensures that non-violent offenders do no remain in jail longer simply because of a mental illness. The broad goal of the Court is to provide participants with the tools necessary to function at their highest possible level, which will ultimately reduce the number of law enforcement contacts and result in increased public safety.

MHC couples intensive treatment with enhanced supervision as an alternative to incarceration, where appropriate, by improving the communication between courts, community supervision and the behavioral health systems. This process involves frequent Court appearances, active participation from participant in his or her treatment plan, and random drug testing (if necessary). The MHC team is comprised of the Judge, Court staff, supervision officers, treatment counselors, and other professionals who work for and with the Defendant to ensure that he or she has all of the necessary resources for him or her to succeed in the program.

The MHC program is divided into five phases with specific tasks to be accomplished in order to transition to the next phase. Due to the nature of mental illness and/or substance use disorder, different participants requite different tools in order to recover and maintain a stable lifestyle; therefore, phase requirements may be modified when it is in the best interest of the participant. 

The Court makes certain that participants:

  • Have access to the recommended treatment/services
  • Engage in the treatment/services
  • Are held accountable when they do not comply with program requirements.

All MHC participants must:

-Attend regular court sessions

-attend increased probation appointments

-Participate in the recommended mental health and/or substance abuse treatment

-Remain compliant with medications

-Complete community service

-Pay fine and probation fees

-Abstain from alcohol and/or drugs, and submit to random but frequent urine screens

-Engage in employment or volunteer week (when deemed appropriate by the Court)



Mental Health Criteria

-Documented primary Axis I Serious and Persistent Mental Illness;

-With or without a Co-occurring Substance use disorder

Mental Health Criteria

-Adults aged seventeen or older; AND

-Offenders with pending, non-violent misdemeanor or felony charges(s) under the jurisdiction of Chatham County Recorder’s, Magistrate’s, State or Superior Courts; OR

-Offenders charged with felony and/or misdemeanor offenses and sentenced to a period of probation and who are currently in the probation revocation process.

Exclusion Criteria

-Current charge or previous conviction of any violent offense, including charges involving the use of a firearm or knife;

-Current charge or previous conviction of a sex crime;

- Current charge in any county other than Chatham County;

-Illegal Alien Status.



What is a Mental Health Court?

Mental Health Courts are judicially supervised programs designed to hear cases involved individuals who have been diagnosed with mental illness. These courts seek to address the underlying issues that lead to repeated involvement in the criminal justice system by compelling participants to address their mental illness while simultaneously serving a sentence.

Are Mental Health Courts “less harsh” then the traditional court process?

No. In fact, many would argue the contrary, Mental Health Courts generally mandate longer participation periods, increased court appearances and a greater level of supervision than the traditional court process. Additionally, participants are required to attend and participate in appropriate treatment programs, including substance abuse treatment if deemed necessary, pay probation fees and/or fines, complete community service and submit to periodic urine screens.





“The goal of a mental health court, and the vision locally from day one, is to level the playing field. The mental health court established accountability by treating the illness, sentencing appropriately and fairly in a timely manner, and requiring continued participation in treatment, which reduces recidivism.”

-The Honorable Penny Haas Freesemann

Chief Judge, Chatham County Superior Court

For more information about Mental Health, please contact:

Steve Brown
Mental Health Manager

133 Montgomery St.
Room 616
Savannah, GA 31401

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