Troup Co. Adult Mental Health holds graduation

Published 7:38 pm Friday, September 15, 2017

The Troup County Adult Mental Health Court held its second annual graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon. The adult mental health court is an alternative program for those who commit felonies and misdemeanors while also struggling with mental health issues, according to LaGrange police officer Jim Davison.

“A lot of people just don’t really have the ability or skills to be accountable for everyday life, going to work, having a job, being on time, making appointments, that kind of thing. I think it kind of helps people do that, get plugged into the routine being of responsible and having a schedule, having a calendar and adhering to it,” Davison said. “If you look at where the money is spent and what we do, it’s the same people going through the system often. A lot of times it’s because we’re not really connecting them with any kind of help they really need and that’s why they keep reoffending.”

Twelve participants graduated the program, Davison said. The program is focused more on the mental health of offenders than the crimes they committed, he said.

“The nexus is a mental health diagnosis of some kind. It could be depression, it could be bipolar, it could be schizophrenia, it could be a number of mental health kind of things. The crime isn’t the important part of the nexus as is the mental health aspect,” he said. “If it’s a mental health problem, that has to be addressed or they’ll offend potentially. It really has value.”

According to case manager LaNisha Rivers, the initiative started in 2011, and the program had its first member enter in 2013. The program has had 26 people graduate since. Rivers said the intensive treatment benefits participants and the community.

“It costs $45 a day to house an inmate at the Troup County Jail. By allowing participants to enter mental health court, both the community and the participants benefit,” Rivers said. “Overall the mental health court saves lives and our team members have the privilege of watching our members grow as individuals.”

According to Judge A. Quillian Baldwin Jr, the program lasts for a year for those convicted with misdemeanors and 18 months for those with felonies.  He said the program is not an easy task for participants.

“It is not easy, and we don’t just slap them on that hand,” Baldwin said. “We’re pretty tough about what they do and what they have to do.”

After being referred to the program, participants are assessed by program coordinator and case manager. Then, the district attorney or solicitor general determine if individual is appropriate for the program based on their criminal history, Baldwin said.

“If the prosecutor approves, the mental health team then decides whether or not the participant will be accepted into the program,” he said. “It’s not easy to get in.”

According to Baldwin, a counselor at mental health service Pathways creates a treatment plan for each participant. Treatment includes individual counseling sessions, group counseling, day treatment and medication management. The judge said participants are also required to have random drug screenings throughout the week and those that do not comply with the program receive sanctions.

“The people that are graduating today have been through some tough things,” he said.

Participant graduate Shena Noles said the program was wonderful.

“If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here. [The court team members] were very, very supportive, you couldn’t meet better people,” Noles said. “Usually we think officers are against us, but they’re not. James Dawson (the felony probation officer) really inspired me.”