A hospital in San Bernardino County offers patients access to something no other does: access to justice. Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) in Colton, California houses the state’s only in-hospital courtroom serving mental health patients. The courtroom's cases are almost all related to the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which can give doctors the right to treat patients who are unable to make their own health care decisions due to a serious mental illness.
The Behavioral Health Court coordinates with seven other mental health facilities in the area to bring patients in for hearings. Last year, the court heard more than 2,000 cases, up from 1,600 in 2016.
"We are bringing the court to the patients, and this ensures our court is functioning in the most considerate manner for this vulnerable community," San Bernardino Superior Court Presiding Judge Vander Feer explains.
Mental health courts are a type of problem-solving court that combines judicial supervision with mental health treatment and other support services to reduce criminal activity and improve the lives of participants. San Bernardino County was one of the first counties in the state to launch such a court.
During construction of the ARMC, county Department of Behavioral Health officials worked with the San Bernardino Superior Court to choose an area for a courtroom in the new hospital's Behavioral Health Center, which opened in 1999. From 1983 to 1999, the court held these hearings at another county hospital.
We are bringing the court to the patients, and this ensures our court is functioning in the most considerate manner for this vulnerable community.
Presiding Judge John P. Vander Feer
"ARMC provides patients a safer and more expeditious hearing process than transporting them to a courthouse without medical staff," said Judge Vander Feer. "In most cases, after a patient's case is heard, they are immediately returned to treatment, rather than waiting at a courthouse to be returned to the hospital."