Mental Health Court
To provide the rehabilitation and restoration of mental health to adult offenders suffering from mental illness and/or the co-occurring disorder of substance abuse.
Jacqueline D. Belton
Associate Judge of Probate
Mental Health Court Judge
Mental Health Court Coordinator
Richland County Mental Health Court is a voluntary court diversion program. The Probate Court of Richland County administers the Mental Health Court. The Administrative Order establishing the Richland County Mental Health Court was signed by Jean H Toal, Chief Justice, SC Supreme Court on June 26, 2003 and was modified on November 21, 2005.
The Mental Health Court began accepting referrals from the Magistrate Courts on August 22, 2003 and from General Sessions Court on October 1, 2004.
The Richland County Mental Health Court seeks to address the inappropriate involvement of mentally ill individuals, with or without substance abuse, in the criminal justice system. Mental Health Court is designated for individuals charged with misdemeanors and/or non-violent felony offenses, resulting from untreated symptoms of psychiatric and co-occurring disorders. Treatment is obtained for the individuals through collaboration among the judicial, mental health, and substance abuse systems. Judicial oversight insures follow through.
- Have an identifiable mental illness with or without a co-occurring disorder of substance abuse
- Be able to understand the terms and conditions of the program
- Reside in Richland County
- Not currently charged or previously convicted of a violent offense
- Be able to sign a Mental Health Court Agreement
- Victim Consents (if applicable)
Eligible defendants can be referred at the time of arrest, at the bond hearing, or at the plea or trial. Referrals are accepted from the public, law enforcement, bond court judges, trial judges, solicitors, attorneys, and mental health professionals.
General Sessions referral form
Magistrate referral form.
Clinical assessments are performed by mental health professionals to identify defendants with mental illness.
Upon meeting eligibility criteria and acceptance into Mental Health Court, jurisdiction over the charges is transferred by the court system to Mental Health Court. The transferring court accepts a guilty plea. For magistrate and municipal level offenses, the court will issue a conditional discharge for the offense(s). For magistrate and municipal level offenses, successful completion of Mental Health Court will result in a dismissal of the charges. For General Sessions level offenses, the Court will, as a part of their sentencing, sentence the individual to mental health court.
The participant from magistrate court agrees to a minimum of three (3) months to a maximum of one year. The participant from General Sessions court agrees to a minimum of twelve (12) months to a maximum of time equal to the length of the probationary sentence imposed.
Intensive case management and supervision is provided to the participant based on an individualized treatment plan. As treatment progresses, the participant will move to more traditional mental health services.
Participants who opt out of the program or who are unsuccessful in completion will be referred back to the original court for adjudication.
- Criminal Domestic Violence (CDV)
- Driving under the Influence (DUI)
- Lewd Act on a Minor
- Victim consent has not been obtained when required by Administrative Order
- Individuals subject to a restraining order or an order of protection
- Individuals previously convicted of violent offense as defined by statute to include stalking, harassment, or burglary
- Individuals on probation or parole
Goals of the Mental Health Court
- To decrease reoccurring arrests
- To decrease length of time in jail
- To increase access, coordination, cooperation and consistency of mental health / substance abuse services
- To increase accountability for the offender
- To address public safety issues
Court Location / Time
Mental Health Court hearings are held on Mondays at the Richland County Judicial Center, 1701 Main St, Columbia, S.C. in Courtroom 2-F.
A Graduation Ceremony is held several times each year once participants have successfully completed the requirements of Mental Health Court.