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Officials Attend First Graduation from the Richland County Mental Health Court

Group photo of court officials

Pictured from left to right: Amy W. McCulloch, Richland County Probate Judge,  John Brown, Director of Adult Services, DMH,
Leon Lott, Richland County Sheriff, Jacqueline D. Belton, Mental Health Court Judge & Assoc. Probate Judge, Lester Bates, Atty. &
Former City of Columbia Municipal Judge, Rosalyn W. Frierson, Director of SC Court Administration, and Shirley Furdick, Director of Forensic Services, DMH

Richland County Mental Health Court is a two-year voluntary court diversion grant program funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Richland County.  The Probate Court of Richland County administers the Mental Health Court.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance approved the grant in May 2003.  Jean H. Toal, Chief Justice, SC Supreme Court on June 26, 2003, signed the Administrative Order establishing the Richland County Mental Health Court.

The Mental Health Court began accepting referrals from the Magistrate Courts on August 22, 2003.  Referrals will be accepted from General Sessions Court in year two of the grant.


The Richland County Mental Health Court seeks to address the inappropriate involvement of individuals with mental illness and/or substance abuse in the criminal justice system, with misdemeanor or non-violent felony offenses, resulting mainly from untreated symptoms of psychiatric and co-occurring disorders.  Treatment is obtained for the individuals through collaboration among the judicial, mental health and substance abuse systems.  Judicial oversight insures follow through.



Defendants for referral are identified at the time of arrest, at the bond hearing or at the trial.  Referrals are accepted from the public, law enforcement, bond court judges, trial judges, solicitors, attorneys, probation officers, and mental health professionals.

Mental health professionals to identify defendants with mental illness perform clinical assessments.

Upon meeting eligibility criteria and acceptance into Mental Health Court, jurisdiction of the charges is transferred by the court system to Mental Health Court.  The transferring court issues a conditional discharge for the offenses.  Successful completion of Mental Health Court will result in a dismissal of the charges.

The participant agrees to a minimum of three (3) or a maximum of twelve (12) months supervision by the Mental Health Court, depending on the offense.

Intensive case management and supervision is provided to the participant based on an individualized treatment plan developed for that individual.  As treatment progresses, the participant will move to more traditional mental health services.

Participants who opt out of the program or who are unsuccessful in completion will be referred back to the original court for adjudication.




Mental Health Court hearings are held regularly at the Richland County Judicial Center, 1701 Main St, Columbia, SC. Review hearings can be held at the mental health treatment facilities to reduce the amount of travel for the participant.


Amy W. McCulloch
Richland County Judge of Probate
Mental Health Court Judge

Jacqueline D. Belton
Associate Judge of Probate
Mental Health Court Judge

Pat Lawter
Mental Health Court Coordinator