Funding approved for mental health court

Published 6:07 pm Thursday, November 14, 2019

On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council unanimously approved funding to match a state grant that will allow for the continuation of the local mental health court. 

The mental health court directs offenders, who would normally be sent to prison, to long-term community-based treatment instead. The program has been offered by the Troup County Accountability Court since 2013, and it aims to address and treat mental illness to improve quality of life, reduce crime, reduce incarcerations and reduce hospitalizations. The City of LaGrange has previously provided funding for the program. 

“We have received a funding request to provide a 10 percent cash match,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “The total request is $40,000 for FY19 and FY20, and this covers salary and benefits, drug testing, mileage, travel and training. The last time we funded this was in FY17.”

Kelsey said that the program has been proven to save the city money over time.

“This really does help reduce our general cost,” Kelsey said. “The program, as was documented in their notes, has served 55 participants since it opened its doors in 2013. They have increased their capacity to serve participants. They started at 25, and now they are up to 30, so they are gaining momentum. They just need an in-kind cash match to help continue the program.”

While 55 participants may not sound like a lot, LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar said that those participants may represent hundreds of prevented arrests.

“We started off initially with 25 individuals responsible for almost 200 arrests,” Dekmar said. “Our prisoner costs were running almost a half a million dollars a year. [That would have been] $475,000 about 10 years ago. Currently, I think they’re less than $200,000 and closer to $150,000. What we’ve been able to do is provide alternatives that avoid incarceration for those folks that don’t need it, and provide the ability for folks to pull themselves through situations that are affected by mental illness and become contributing members of our community.”

Dekmar requested that future in-kind matches for the program come from the LaGrange Police Department’s budget as a contracted service.