County weighing mental health court program

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A proposal by Mid South Health Systems will be heard this month at the Mississippi County Quorum Court's full meeting, to request approval for a new mental health court program.

According to Justice Benton Felts, who presented the idea at a Tuesday meeting of the court's social services committee, the program will operate in a similar manner to the county's new drug court program; with the end goal of reducing prison recidivism because of untreated mental health issues.

The program will require a pass-through grant by the county -- meaning that the county will pay no money to the program but must offer its endorsement as a government entity before grant monies can be secured. The county would also be required to provide space for the program, but County Judge Randy Carney said the jail's small courtroom facility would be available for the once weekly sessions.

"We were told that most of the participants would be people who are already in jail," said Felts. "If they qualify and are enrolled in the program, and they follow their rules and graduate, their record can be expunged and they can hopefully return to productive society."

Carney said he consulted with the judges from Crittenden and Craighead counties, where the program is already in operation, and received positive feedback.

Justices will hear the full presentation from program directors and discuss the option of endorsing it at their March 27 meeting.

sspears@blythevillecourier.com