Probate/Juvenile Courts Judge Frederick (Fritz) Hany II is utilizing new treatment tools to address the needs of the mentally ill in Ottawa County. Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) is the practice of delivering court ordered outpatient treatment to adults with severe mental illness who meet specific criteria, such as a prior history of repeated hospitalizations or arrests.
Studies have shown that AOT can dramatically improve treatment outcomes and substantially reduce the likelihood of repeat hospitalization and criminal justice involvement for its target population.
“In my prior experience as a judge in the municipal court, I saw many individuals become involved in the criminal justice system when the underlying causes bringing them there are due to their mental health issues,” explained Judge Hany.
To date, Ottawa County has seen six people graduate successfully from this program.
“Many individuals we see repeatedly in our criminal justice system have significant mental illness that is oftentimes not being treated,” says Magistrate Danita Gilbert-Conway. “AOT allows us to hopefully stop the revolving door by creating a partnership between the individual and the mental health system. For those who participate, we see an increase in medication and therapy adherence and a reduction of criminal activity.”
The AOT is designed to equip the individual with the tools they need to successfully manage their mental illness. Those involved in AOT are expected to fully partner with the treatment plan, including participation in discussing and developing goals, attending all regularly scheduled court appearances and treatment appointments and full cooperation with psychological testing and therapy.
“It is my sincere hope that by connecting those individuals suffering from mental illness with the medical care they sincerely need, they will avoid the criminal justice system altogether and not be criminally punished for what truly is a medical and healthcare concern,” he said.
Mircea Handru, the Executive Director of the local mental health and recovery services board in Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca and Wyandot counties, said that Judge Hany needs to be applauded for the AOT program in Ottawa County.
“We need to support program growth to ensure that within our mental health system, AOT is available to those who need it to live safely in the local community and not incarcerated in our local jail or the prison system,” said Handru.