The Pitt County Behavioral Health Treatment Court team and advisory board have announced that Pitt County’s Behavioral Health Treatment Court (BHTC) will hold its first session of court this week. The BHTC combines court supervision with mental health treatment by including members from the criminal justice system and mental health treatment agencies. This collaborative relationship will help ensure that qualifying individuals obtain appropriate treatment and services, and that they maintain treatment and services as they transition back into community life.
“The BHTC has been a dream of many in our community for years,” said Pitt County District Court Judge Wendy S. Hazelton. “Several stakeholders from both the criminal justice and mental health communities have been working hard since June 2019 to make this court a reality.”
Many people enter the criminal justice system as a result of behavioral health issues, but courts often do not have the resources to address these issues in a sustainable way. The BHTC provides an opportunity for participants to receive a lesser plea offer, to have a reduced probationary period, or to have their criminal charge dismissed altogether if they engage in ongoing BHTC sessions as well as mental health treatment. The court’s requirements will help guide and support the participant’s mental health stability, help them learn to manage their mental wellness, end their encounters with police and the court system, avoid going to jail or prison, and become more productive members of the community.
Pitt County is able to provide this treatment court to residents thanks to supportive community stakeholders. Gary Bass, a licensed clinical social worker and the chief executive officer of Pride In North Carolina, and Roxanne Banks, director of outpatient services at Integrated Family Services, have volunteered to financially support the BHTC by providing initial mental health screenings and clinical assessments, as well as the initial case management responsibilities.
In addition, there is a wide range of community participation on the BHTC team and advisory board including:
- Wendy S. Hazelton, district court judge
- Faris Dixon, district attorney
- P. Gwynett Hilburn, chief district court judge (ret.)
- Sara Beth Fulford Rhodes, clerk of superior court
- Michael Cavanagh, assistant public defender
- Tracy Gatling, chief probation / parole officer
- John Bancroft, mental health probation officer
- Nyaisa Ten, mental health probation officer
- Rev. Dr. Rodney Coles Sr., CEO, Churches Outreach Network
- Keith W. Cooper, executive director, The Benevolence Corps., president, Eastern North Carolina Regional Association of Black Social Workers
- Keith Letchworth, systems of care coordinator, Trillium Health Resources (Dare, Nash and Pitt counties)
- Nancy Ray, assistant clerk of court
- Megan Hartzog, BHTC coordinator and drug court case manager
- Christine Spencer, president, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), (Pitt County)
- Barry Dixon, CEO, Dixon Social Interactive Services
“This extraordinary team of people is looking forward to serving the residents of Pitt County, and I am grateful for all the hard work each person has devoted to this specialty court as we improve the way we approach behavioral health issues in Pitt County’s courts,” said Judge Hazelton.