In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of mental illness as a factor in criminal cases, and potential ways to resolve cases in light of mental illness. As we mentioned, the criminal system in Maryland can and does make use of programs aimed at addressing some of the special needs of offenders with mental illnesses.
In addition to mental health courts and involvement in diversion programs, another potential intervention for offenders with mental illnesses is crisis intervention training. Crisis intervention involves a cooperation between the police, the county and mental health professionals to help officers deescalate individuals going through a mental health crisis and to put these individuals in touch with appropriate medical or mental health care professionals to avoid unnecessary hospitalization and involvement with the criminal system and to get them the help they need.
Crisis intervention, where available, can be especially beneficial because of the alternative resources available for those who otherwise might find themselves wrapped up in the criminal system. Unfortunately, the availability of crisis intervention is still rather limited in the state of Maryland. According to the University of Memphis CIT Center, there are only six counties across Maryland which have crisis intervention programs.
For those with mental illnesses who do find themselves in the position of facing criminal charges, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is important not only to ensure the protection of their legal rights, but to work with prosecutors to take advantage of any available avenues for resolving their case.