COURT WATCH: Judge Claims Defense Choice of Mental Health Services Lacks Resources; Defense Disagrees

VAN NUYS, CA – In a Los Angeles County Superior Court this week, during an arraignment hearing, Judge Richard Kirschner and Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Hawkins disagreed about the best option for mental health services for the accused.

The accused is facing felony charges of vandalism, resulting in damages of $400 or more and threatening to commit a crime with intent to terrorize in January of this year.

“The court was concerned with (the accused’s) living arrangements,” began Judge Kirschner.

According to DPD Hawkins, the accused has secured housing through SHARE!, a program the accused obtained herself through the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

“When I first got here, I had to do a lot of research myself,” said the accused. “(SHARE!) helps people that have had conditions with alcohol, drugs, or experience homelessness.”

“Just to be clear, (the accused) does not have any substance abuse issues. She purely has mental health issues,” said DPD Hawkins.

After hearing about the mental health services that the accused is currently utilizing, Judge Kirschner suggested DPD Hawkins help the accused pursue a different outlet of mental health resources instead of going through DMH, citing what he described as a lack of efficiency and resources for its participants.

“This is to benefit your client,” said Judge Kirschner. “I don’t want this to shift into DMH, where they don’t have enough resources,” explaining his experience with the DMH is that they have a long process that could potentially set back a person in their recovery process.

“I respectfully disagree… I think that might be a funding issue,” said DPD Hawkins about Judge Kirschner’s alternative suggestion.

“(The accused is) clearly motivated,” said Judge Kirschner, further stating his goal was for the accused to be a part of a program that “best addresses her needs.”

DPD Hawkins also told the court the accused holds a college degree, and was a graduate student at a university at the time of the mental health incident, which, said the DPD, was in part a result of the accused experiencing an insurance-related resource accessibility issue.

“I’d like you to present a letter about what you’re doing, for the file,” said Judge Kirschner. “It sounds like you’re taking all the right steps. The key in these situations is always medication.”

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  • Sarah Chayet

    I'm a recent California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo grad. I majored in English and received a minor in Studio Art. In the fall, I plans to go back to school for a master's degree in English Literature. Currently, I am a transcript editor for CalMatters, and I hope to enter the field of technical writing someday. In my freetime, I love to draw, go on roadtrips, and camp

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