New mental health court program gets boostPublished 9:03am Friday, November 13, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Berrien County Commissioners officially accepted grant funds recently to help the county facilitate a drug treatment court program.
Now, more funds are expected to be received that will aid the county’s relatively new mental health court program, another to help prevent instances of repeat offenders who suffer from mental illness.
Grant coordinator Jennifer Grimm explained that the amount of $19,600 is a continuation of a recovery grant “to contract with a person to perform the mental health court related activities.”
The program is voluntary unlike the drug treatment court in which offenders would be processed through that program based on the offense.
In the case of the mental health court, “they (offenders) have to meet certain mental health criteria,” she said.
Offenders are assigned a caseworker and the court works with Riverwood Center of Niles, which offers services in psychiatry, rehabilitation, occupational, physical and speech therapy among other related services.
Grimm said the program got off the ground around January of this year.
Nine people currently participate in the mental health court program.
The money would go toward a central coordinator for the program working between the court, Riverwood and the offender.
When an offender takes part in the program, explained Julie Cripe, support services manager and program coordinator, they will work intensely through their process.
The court includes a jail psychologist and two mental health court judges.
“It’s a very intense probation,” Cripe said.
Offenders eligible for the program might be suffering from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, severe depression, substance abuse or developmental disabilities.
The program is not available to anyone facing a prison term, but apply to misdemeanor charges and felonies that don’t require prison time.
Facilitating courts such as the mental health court, Cripe said is an effort to “get them (offenders) the treatment that they need. So they are less likely to re-offend.”
Because the program is still in its beginning stages, Cripe said “it’s just going to take time to see the total impact.”
The next Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting is Thursday at 10:30 a.m.