The Springfield Specialty Court: Mental Health Session grew out of a discussion among a group of involved organizations brought together initially by the Superintendent of the Hampden County Correctional Center. The focus of this discussion was on how best to respond to individuals with mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders who are appearing before the Court and who often recidivate due to disconnection from community services. The original group consisted of members of the Judiciary, the Hampden County DA’s office, Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), Bar Advocates, Probation, Department of Mental Health, the Hampden Sheriff’s Department, and Behavioral Health Network (BHN).
Very quickly consensus was reached that a case manager would be an important part of any effort to address the needs of individuals with mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and alcohol/substance abuse problems appearing before the Court. As a result, BHN pursued a grant from Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation to support a case manager position out of the Adult Court Clinic. After successfully obtaining the grant in early 2009, an advisory council was formed to have oversight over a budding mental health session. The advisory council, consists of two Associate Justices, the Chief Prosecuting Attorney in the District Court, members of CPCS, Chief of District Court Probation, the DMH Area Forensic Director, the Assistant Superintendent of the Hampden County Community Safety Center, the Clinical Director of the Hampden County Correctional Center, supervising attorney for Hampden County Bar Advocates, a vice president from BHN, the program director and court coordinator of the BHN Adult Court Clinics, and the newly hired case manager. Members of the advisory council visited a mental health court in Keene, New Hampshire, reviewed literature from mental health courts around the country, and set to work developing the Springfield Specialty Court: Mental Health Session. On January 1, 2012, funding for the Recovery With Justice program shifted from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation to the Department of Mental Health, which now pays for RWJ services.