City-funded Early Response Program receives OK from county

Published 11:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Troup County Juvenile Court’s Early Response Program is now ready to move forward due to funding from the city and a stamp of approval from the county.

The county currently has no stake financially or otherwise in the program due to it retaining focus on inner-city cases. However, the county still needed to approve the resolution for the program. The Troup County Board of Commissioners approved the resolution at its meeting Tuesday night.

The ERP is an agreement between the juvenile court, LPD and trained professionals through an outside facility, West Georgia Counseling and Assessment. They would assist LPD with calls to the scene of family-related crises within the city limits of LaGrange.

“What we really have are a lot of mental health and behavioral issue, high-maintenance cases that take a lot of law enforcement’s time,” explained Judge Michael Key, who initiated the program.

Per the program’s description, the ERP is meant to reduce the trauma to which families and communities are exposed from repeated law enforcement interventions. It hopes too reduce the number of repeat calls that result in frequent and prolonged law enforcement responses to identified families and reduce the average time spent by law enforcement per call in response to situations within identified families.

Key said the idea came to fruition after a recent family-related case required a combined 16 hours from two LPD officers. He  noted the issue officers faced was a mental and behavioral-related which the officers  may not properly be able to assist with.

The LaGrange City Council agreed to fund the court’s $45,000 initial start in September. The amount, which covers the program’s first year, is a stopgap measure, Key said, and has the ability to fluctuate should the program continue.

The $45,000 will be broken up into two installments, said Troup County Juvenile Court Administrator Michelle Bowman, one in June 2022 and the second in December 2022.

“What [the group] who [designed] this program talked about is that there’s no way to know if it is enough money. So, they’re going to meet quarterly to gauge it to see what we need to do,” Bowman said. “If the money is still there in December, then [the group] has agreed to keep paying it into January 2023. But if the money is all spent up, then they’ll have to stop unless the city kicks in more money to complete the year.”