A bill introduced by Representative Becky Currie is looking to create mental health courts. Currie, who is a nurse, said the program would work just like drug courts, where the mental health patients would be monitored during the court meetings and would hopefully keep them out of jail prison.
“It would run just like drug court, but it’s for mentally ill people who get in trouble with the law, but what they need instead of being a prisoner, is they need support from the community,” Currie said. “They would go in and see a judge, make sure that they have gone to their appointments, taking their medicine, doing right and then they would bypass jail instead of your mentally ill patient that got off their medicine, thought they were doing fine, got in trouble with the law, and now they are just a number in a jail cell that is not getting the care that they need.”
The bill has been introduced and referred to the House Appropriations Committee and will need to be passed from the committee and taken up by the House before the end of February to stay alive.
“They need help,” Currie said. “They don’t need to go and be put where they are not going to receive the medical care that they need because what happens is when that mentally ill person goes into prison they don’t get the care and the medicines that they need they come out so much worse and then the public has to deal with somebody that is a lot worse off than before they went in.”
Currently, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health has a Second Chance Act Reentry Program which is working to reduce re-entry into prisons. However, there is no state funding for it. The DMH program is funded by a federal grant and is a partnership between the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Corrections where they address untreated co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders in offenders under community supervision. The program focuses on people returning to Hinds County. In FY18, a graduation ceremony was held for the first six participants who completed the program.