AURORA | Aurora’s newest specialty court — a wellness court open to anyone who has committed repeat offenses and is diagnosed with significant behavioral health problems — will now be able to include housing as part of its treatment.
At a regular meeting Monday, Jan. 11, Aurora City Council members voted 9-1 to allow the court to purchase a home at 3120 Ursula St. for $176,524 for participants to live in while they receive treatment. Lone dissent focused on the role of city government and not the program itself.
“I’m not supporting this. I believe in all my heart this is the job of the county, not the city,” said Councilwoman Renie Peterson, who was the only council member to vote against the measure.
Councilwoman Barb Cleland did not vote because she works for Aurora Mental Health, an organization that serves as the primary treatment provider for the participants.
The wellness court already consists of weekly court visits where participants receive mental health treatment.
According to Judge Richard Weinberg, the participants who qualify for the program will first live at the Comitis Crisis Center shelter located on the Anschutz Medical Campus. He said during a study session earlier in the evening they would be subjected to intensive weekly supervision from a court and care coordinator before being allowed to live in the group home.
According to city documents, the Community Development Home Investment Partnership (HOME) will pay for the property.
Weinberg said at the study session the court so far has four participants from a list of 50 people that police have arrested frequently over a three-year period.
“We plan to interview all 50 by end of year,” he said. He said the court plans to enroll about 15 to 20 people per year.
Weinberg said the city arrests about 1,200 people annually who are diagnosed with a mental illness, and that it puts an expensive burden on the city.
He said the 50 most frequent users of medical services that were identified, if sentenced to 30 days in jail, cost Aurora citizens $1.5 million over three years. Aurora police estimated they spend $250,000 a year dealing with calls relating to mentally ill offenders.
The new wellness court grew out of the city’s Females Utilizing Treatment and Undertaking Recovery Efforts (FUTURE), a grant-funded program which saw success with treating women who have been repeatedly arrested by Aurora police.