Judge Orr Grants Mental Health Diversion for Veteran with Schizophrenia and PTSD

By Gwynneth Redemann

SACRAMENTO, CA – Taisha Nelson, a veteran who suffers from schizophrenia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, was granted release from custody on a Mental Health Diversion to Telecare Empower in Sacramento this week in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Nelson was in custody awaiting trial for various charges, including a felony involving a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor case from October of 2020. 

But Judge Joseph Orr granted the release of Nelson on the conditions that the court would receive the plan for treatment at Telecare, progress reports every 30 days, and the contact information of the PSC (Personal Service Coordinator) assisting her. 

Assistant Public Defender Morgan Karalash argued for the placement of Nelson in the Telecare Empower program, given her history of mental illness. The program is at a “Level 4” treatment facility, which is intended for people who are regarded as “highly vulnerable,” said the PD.

Karalash also went into detail about how the program would also be tailored to meet Nelson’s specific mental health needs by a team of doctors at the facility. 

Saron Tesfai, the Deputy District Attorney on the case, voiced his concerns regarding the decision to allow Nelson into this program, stating, “I just don’t know if an outpatient program will be sufficient for this particular defendant.”

Tesfai continued, mentioning that Nelson had attended Veteran’s Treatment Court in 2018, which was a “more structured program,” but she was “unsuccessful” at complying with the program set by that court. 

Tesfai’s final concern involved the frequency of scheduled check-ins that the defendant was to have with the court. He suggested that 90 days was too infrequent considering the nature of the alleged crimes and the circumstances of the outpatient program. 

Tesfai noted his concern for public safety, stating that “the fact that she has committed acts of violence in the past and did threaten to kill her brother” while armed with a knife.

PD Karalash addressed Tesfai’s concern about the court check-ins and agreed to the defendant checking in via a progress report every 30 days, explaining this will ensure that Nelson is following the conditions set by the court and not endangering any of the public. 

Karalash also assured the court that the outpatient program will be sufficient for Nelson because she will be meeting with a psychiatrist once a month to assess her medications, will have a therapist on-site at the treatment facility, and will be transported by a PSC to-and-from her assigned housing unit.

Nelson is also set to appear in court again on Nov. 9. 

About The Author

Gwynneth is a senior at UC Davis, studying Political Science and Anthropology. She is from Ventura, California.

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