May is Mental Health Month, and I would like to take this opportunity to share with my readers what my office is doing to address the needs of both children and adults who have mental health needs.

It has been estimated that almost 21% of children aged 9-17 have a diagnosable mental or addictive challenge associated with at least minimum impairment in functioning.  Alarmingly, close to 80% of children 6-17 with mental challenges do not receive mental health care.

In 1994, my office launched a comprehensive Truancy program in collaboration with the New York City Police Department and the New York City Department of Education in order to address growing concerns regarding our borough’s truants.  Our program counselors, all of whom are trained social workers, work closely with the Brooklyn Borough-Based Council and the Children’s Committee of the New York State Office of Mental Health.  Almost 4,000 truants were assessed by our counselors in 2008; approximately 10 percent of those children were referred for mental health services.

In 1998, I launched TADD (Treatment Alternatives for the Dually Diagnosed), a program to treat offenders who have drug addictions and mental illness. To enter TADD, defendants must plead guilty and agree to participate in a rigorous treatment program monitored by EAC-LINK, a non-profit criminal-justice case management agency, which reports regularly to prosecutors and the courts. More than 1,000 participants have received treatment since the program’s inception. 

In 2002, New York State opened a special Mental Health Court in Brooklyn. Presided over by Justice Matthew D’Emic, the court has been referred more than 1,000 cases involving mentally ill defendants, many of whom also have histories of substance abuse. Defendants accepted for court-monitored treatment in Mental Health Court must plead guilty and agree to participate in a treatment program of 18 months to two years (for a felony), and 12 months (for a misdemeanor).  In rare cases, defendants charged with violent crimes may be admitted with the permission of the victim. Following completion of the treatment program, the cases are sealed. 

If you would like more information about the Truancy program, contact Nicole Barron at 718-250-2298.

If you would like more information about the TADD program, contact Anne Swern at 718-250-3939.

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Charles J. Hynes