OGDEN -- The year-old Ogden 2nd District Mental Health Court will honor its first graduates in ceremonies today.
One of the many formerly called experimental courts now in common use statewide, mental health courts emphasize treatment over incarceration.
Ogden's convenes once a week before Judge Noel Hyde. A total of 17 defendants are patrons currently, said Mike Beaudoin, a counselor with Weber Human Services, contracted to provide the intensive counseling at the core of the program.
Three will "graduate" today as completion of the regimen is called in the alternative courts. Ceremonies are set for 4 p.m. at the Weber Human Services auditorium at 237 26th St. Hyde and the graduates are the speakers.
Utah has mental health courts in five of the state's eight judicial districts, operating in both adult and juvenile courts, said Nancy Volmer, state courts spokeswoman.
Hyde's is the second mental health court in the 2nd District, which covers Weber, Davis and Morgan counties. The other is in Davis.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith has been personally serving as the prosecutor assigned to the court.
Patrons of the court must have a diagnosed mental health malady, Beaudoin said, and a criminal history that doesn't include violent offenses.
"It's a problem-solving rather than punitive approach," he said.
Jail is, however, one of the sanctions available to the judge if a defendant is not meeting the requirements of the program, for example by missing appointments or committing new offenses.
The clients have all pleaded guilty to their charges at the outset of the program, making mental health court something of an intensive probation program.
If a participant is failing to follow the mandates, Hyde can order them to jail on the spot during the weekly courtroom sessions.