Commissioners struggle with mental health court launch
by Jon Gillooly
April 23, 2013 12:00 AM | 2186 views | 6 6 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim Lee
Tim Lee
slideshow
Bob Ott
Bob Ott
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The Cobb Board of Commissioners is struggling with how to launch the county’s first mental health court.

On March 26 Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley, Cobb & Douglas Public Health Board Chairman Dan Stephens and Tom Charron, Cobb Superior Court’s administrator, asked the board to accept a state grant that would help fund the new court.

But commissioners Helen Goreham and Bob Ott said there were too many unknowns, such as what would happen if the state grant is not renewed for the second year.

The board tabled the request at that meeting, but is once again taking it up tonight.

Tonight’s vote will decide whether the board wants to accept a state grant for $53,615 to launch the program.

Chairman Tim Lee calculates the latest cost of the court at $215,413 per year. Of that amount, the county is projecting an annual state grant of $120,000, leaving the county to fund the remaining $95,413 from its general fund. Yet those numbers are liable to change based on the level of treatment a patient receives from the Cobb Community Service Board and state funding of the grant, Lee said.

“I have to say, I feel there are too many unknowns,” Goreham said.

Two weeks ago court officials told the board the program would save the county money. Yet during a Monday morning work session, Lee said that wouldn’t end up happening after all, a point Goreham picked up on.

“Today as it was discussed, it was stated that this does not save money for the county by instituting this special court,” Goreham said. “And in today’s economy, I don’t feel secure initiating a program that is going to cost the county revenue going forward.”

The court has been a goal of newly elected Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds.

Eligible people would not meet the criteria of being legally insane, but still suffer from some form of mental illness and could be prosecuted for crimes they commit. Those are typically “nuisance crimes” and include anything from disorderly conduct to trespassing.

Lee said Monday evening he was undecided on the best route to move forward.

“It may be better for us to wait until some things are defined a little bit better by the state, i.e., what parameters are going to be required by the evaluators which will impact significantly the biggest cost factor in the model so far,” Lee said. “So it might be worth waiting a couple of months before we go forward with it. It might be the best route for us to take short term. It may be premature right now.”

Tonight’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the board room at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta.
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April 23, 2013
Reply to "missing something"....

I am of the impression this was submitted to be on prior agendas (maybe for february and march)? and was removed (not sure which party removed), but it was for further research. It's late april now... So if the court "sitting on their hands" is defined as 3-4 months of work between the courts and the Commission, then i guess you are right... 100% right.
thinking out loud
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April 23, 2013
Aren't we seeing these people repeatedly in court now? spending money on police that arrest them, court time, jail time, public defenders, Judges -all at a current cost to the county - while not addressing the root causes of their repetitive behavior?

This program could be a way to avoid some of the current cost of unnecessary jail time by addressing the issue that is causing those with mental illness needs to be repeat offenders.

While the specifics are not listed in the article, a specialized court to handle the specific needs of the mentally ill would perhaps streamline cases for faster processing time and in general improve the well being of those affected.

Worth considering.
Cobb Tax Payer
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April 23, 2013
if I follow the three articles related to this correctly - the "original" state grant was $160k ( /-), and is now "down" to $53k ( /-)??

Reads as if it gets smaller by the day.

So - if this had been voted on and approved in February or March, an addl $100k was available? so not voting / approving by a certain deadline cost $100k in grant money? WOW! Way to drop the ball officials.

If approved, and it seems it should be (I see other courts are moving forward with these accountability courts), the post-ponement of the vote cost $100k in grant money... unbelievable.
Missing something
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April 23, 2013
The money was dropped because they did not have anything in place to spend the funds fast enough for the short period of time given. The courts came with information at the last minute. Those who know grants and how they work know you dont put the horse before the cart. They (The Courts) also recieved notification and sat on their hands rather than bringing it forward so pressure would be on the Comissioners to rush and approve the reciept of the grant. The Comissioners were smart and realized the BS that was being told to them.
Just Sayin'....
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April 23, 2013
Oh dear heavens Helen.....you are barking up the wrong tree yet again!!!! Rather than take over the judiciary, why do you not represent the citizens of your post who elected you. We want jobs, we want zoning, we want infrastructure. What we do not want is you jousting with windmills.
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