City reaffirms support for Mental Health Court program

Published 8:22 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

On Tuesday the LaGrange City Council agreed to continue supporting the Troup County Mental Health Court by committing up to $2,000 toward the court to match funds from a state grant.

“This would be a match of 10 percent to help continue the operation of the program,” City Manager Meg Kelsey. “The last time that we funded this was a few years ago with basically start-up cash to get an organization running.”

The court aims to help those who have mental illnesses find help instead of throwing those individuals in jail, and according to the LaGrange Police Department, the court has successfully decreased how often people with mental illnesses break laws overall saving the police time and the state money.

“We requested funding for a mental health court as a solution, and after we received the funding, we identified 25 individuals who had been responsible for about 200 arrests,” Chief Louis Dekmar said. “Those 25 were selected and placed in the mental health court program, and since their involvement, we’ve only had three arrests. 17 of those have successfully graduated as a result of the continued relationship that they have with the resources in the community, separate and apart from their completion of the mental health court program – which is a three year program.”

Lower arrest rates means less money that the city and the state will have to pay, and the help that these individuals receive helps the community in the long run.

“It reduces not only the incarceration fees that we pay for these individuals, but calls for service downtown for those folks that are acting out or in crisis,” Dekmar said. “Often homelessness accompanies mental illness, and so we also deal with that in police response.”

Dekmar noted that the program affects far more than arrest rates though.

“We’ve not had anyone reoffend,” Dekmar said. “In fact, we’ve been able to reunite families to get them situated in an environment where they are able to work, care for family members, care for themselves.”

Dekmar also discussed the high number of police shootings that correspond with mentally ill individuals with national statistics putting the number around 25 percent.

City council members did ask that staff reach out to Troup County, the City of Hogansville and the City of West Point to help cover the matching money since they also benefit from the court.

The LaGrange City Council is scheduled to meet again on June 27 at 5:30 p.m at 208 Ridley Ave.