Judge Janeice Martin 2018 Murray Hendel Award Winner

Published in Naples Daily News, 11/8/18


By Dave Trecker

It remains one of Collier County’s most persistent problems. Mental health and substance abuse affects thousands (the number swollen by the opioid crisis), leads to homelessness and fills our already-crowded jails.

Treatment facilities are limited, and halfway houses for those treated and released are woefully inadequate. Qualified caregivers to help with post-discharge medications are dispersed and in short supply.

There’s not much outside help. Federal funding is all but non-existent, and Florida’s per-capita spending for mental health is 50th among states. That means, by default, the issue is a local one. It has to be dealt with here or not at all.

And it is being dealt with. County Commissioner Andy Solis has assembled a task force of key stakeholders – David Lawrence Center, Sheriff’s Office, the hospitals, the courts, EMS and others – to coordinate efforts and, more importantly, to craft a strategy to deal with the problem, to go beyond just talking about it.

Central to that effort are the Collier County Treatment Courts – Drug, Mental Health and Veterans – and its tireless leader, Janeice Martin, who runs all three courts in addition to carrying a full caseload as a County Court judge.

Judge Martin’s success rate in dealing with mental health issues has been remarkable. Over a recent three-year period, 251 participated in the courts’ rigorous treatment program. Of those, 65% “graduated,” successfully completing the program. Recidivism among the graduates was less than 30%, weighted over the three courts, an astonishing record.

But it doesn’t end there. Recognizing a need to deal with misdemeanor defendants whose mental illness was so severe that the traditional justice system offered little hope, Judge Martin founded a “rapid-response team” – a group of officials from David Lawrence, the jail and the courts that uses all legal tools available to compel outpatient treatment. Martin’s RRT approach, barely five months old, is already paying dividends – mandated treatment for those who would not otherwise receive it at a significant savings for the taxpayer.

For this pioneering work, Judge Martin was chosen to receive the Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award for 2018. The award will be presented at a ceremony in December.

Named for Hendel, a Naples icon and cofounder of the Collier Citizens Council, the award honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Judge Martin has done that and more.

A graduate of Duke University, she received a law degree from the University of Florida and initially practiced criminal law, both as a prosecutor and private defense attorney. She was elected to the bench in 2009 and is now serving her second six-year term in the County Court.

She began doubling up in 2010, taking over the Mental Health Court. In 2011, she added the Drug Court to her responsibilities, and in 2012 she founded the Veterans Court.

A past president of the Collier County Bar Association, Martin serves on the Florida Supreme Court Task Force for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues. In addition, she works with State Senator Kathleen Passidomo to draft mental health legislation, always an uphill battle in Tallahassee.

How important have Martin’s efforts been? Commissioner Solis said,

“Judge Martin’s work in the Treatment Courts is one of the most important things going on right now in Collier County.”

We agree.

The Collier Citizens Council is privileged to honor her pioneering work.

Trecker is president of the Collier Citizens Council.