By Gary A. Harki
Like most cities around the country Norfolk does not have money pouring in for mental health services. Last year, the legislature rejected a request by the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, which takes many of Norfolk’s sickest inmates, for an additional $5 million in funding.
But not all fixes take a lot of money.
Some just take people with enough focus and determination to use the resources available – like Norfolk’s mental health docket.
In the city’s general district court, where misdemeanors are tried, a judge, attorneys and professionals from the criminal justice and mental health systems gather twice a month to manage cases where mental illness is a factor.
The goal is to get people treatment, housing and the services they need instead of just putting them behind bars.
Patricia Roper, the supervising deputy clerk, leads the meetings, which happen just before defendants are brought into the courtroom to stand before the judge. She’s been with the program since its start in 2011.
On the docket for today: A young man whom everyone in the room believes is neither competent to stand trial nor a danger to society. He picked up several gun charges and after being found with a firearm with an altered serial number. Knowing his mental condition, they think he was set up. His case has been working its way through the system for two years.