Specialty Courts Turn Lives Around

Specialty courts—sometimes known as “problem-solving courts”—have enjoyed a rapid rise nationwide over the past 20 years, and now exist in every jurisdiction in the United States. Studies on specialty courts have shown that they significantly reduce repeat offenses. There is also evidence that defendants who have gone through the problem-solving process are more motivated to get their lives on track and feel more positive toward the justice system than those processed through regular courts.

The Municipal Court in Kansas City operates three problem-solving courts — Drug Court, Mental Health Court and Veteran’s Treatment Court — that focus on the treatment and rehabilitation of qualified participants rather than on punishment. These programs are voluntary, therapeutic in approach, non-adversarial and community-based. The services provided include substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, job training and housing assistance.

As part of Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s Municipal Defense Unit contract with Kansas City, Legal Aid attorneys represent clients in the three problem-solving courts.

Participants must be willing to comply with monitoring and treatment recommendations. They attend court frequently where the judges of the respective Problem-Solving Courts review their progress. The participants receive rewards for success, and are held accountable for not fulfilling their obligations to the court, themselves, their families and society.

Drug Court:
Participants with substance abuse disorders receive a minimum of 12 months intense treatment, including 21 to 30 days of inpatient treatment and other services to achieve and maintain recovery. Legal Aid attorneys Jackie Domian and Wayne Smith represent clients in this court.

Mental Health Court:
Participants with a qualified mental health diagnoses receive six to 12 months of mental health treatment. They must be realistically treatable within the mental health system and currently engaged in or willing to become engaged in outpatient mental health services. Legal Aid’s Mental Health Court Team consists of attorneys Danielle Elam-Job and Christy Dray, as well as paralegal Christina Albrecht.

Veterans’ Treatment Court:
This program is a hybrid of the Drug Court and Mental Health Court and serves veterans with identified treatment needs. The program is a minimum of 12 months and works with the Veterans Administration to provide services. Many veterans connect with the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center for the first time through the Veteran’s Treatment Court. Attorneys Danielle Elam-Jobe and Christy Dray represent veterans in this court.


Read how Legal Aid and problem-solving courts made a difference in our clients’ lives:

With Legal Aid’s help, Sara completed her program in 10 months.

Veteran’s Treatment Court gave Carl a second chance at life.

Mental Health Court changed Dave’s life.

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