Johnson County receives federal grant to create Mental Health Court

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Johnson County is on track to create a mental health court that will reduce the likelihood of people with severe mental illnesses returning to the criminal justice system. On Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners accepted a $309,766 grant from the Department of Justice to support the development of the Mental Health Court program.

Johnson County Mental Health Center, in collaboration with the District Court and District Attorney’s Office, applied for the grant. The grant funds will be used for staff training and education, travel and research, developing program assessments and paying staff salaries associated with program implementation.

This board action clears the way for the planning phase to begin. The Mental Health Court will begin in approximately one year.

“This program will improve mental health services and provide diversion as early as possible,” said Tim DeWeese, Johnson County Mental Health Center Director. “Having a Mental Health Court in Johnson County will build on our efforts to divert people who have been diagnosed with mental health and/or substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system and reduce their incarceration rates.”

Incarcerated individuals with mental illness spend an average of 21 days in jail and are at higher risk of physical illness and death. The primary goals of the Mental Health Court will be to increase public safety, increase engagement with treatment, improve quality of life and use resources more effectively.

The first year of the program will consist of the project planning phase. During this time, JCMHC staff and a District Court judge will lead the creation of a multidisciplinary planning committee to design, maintain, and evaluate the structure of this specialty court.

An advisory group of agency leaders and policymakers will also be established to provide additional feedback to the planning committee. Project implementation will begin in the second year of the program. Staff anticipate a total of 50 people will be served in the first two active years.

The Mental Health Court program will be administered by existing county staff. No additional full-time employees or additional county tax support are requested for this project.

JCMHC collaborates with the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, the District Court, and municipal law enforcement agencies to reduce incarceration rates for this population by assisting them in accessing high quality mental health treatment services.

These collaborations have resulted in successful programs such as the Veteran’s Treatment Court, Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program, co-responder programs with local municipalities, and the Mental Health Diversion program.

Learn more about the Mental Health Treatment Court by viewing the briefing sheet from the BOCC meeting.

Mental Health
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