Court officials went before the Cobb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday seeking its permission to receive a $160,847 start-up grant from Gov. Nathan Deal for what they have in mind.
The court would handle cases involving those who suffer from some form of mental illness but who do not meet the legal definition of insanity. Those lesser cases can be prosecuted and often involve what Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds, who supports the court’s creation, calls “nuisance crimes.” That is, disorderly conduct, trespassing, etc.
The court could require those afflicted to attend counseling a certain number of times a week, for example, and make it more likely that mental health professionals could monitor their intake of medications.
It would be a more humane approach than merely fining or slapping such violators into jail, and would be more cost-effective as well. For one thing, the Cobb jail spends $252,000 a year just on mental health medications. For another, it costs $78 a day to keep someone with mental health issues in the jail, vs. $58 a day for other inmates, according to Cobb Superior Court administrator Tom Charron.
The mental health court envisioned would cost $178,510 per year. Also supporting the request before the commission were Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley and Cobb & Douglas Public Health Board Chairman Dan Stephens.
However, Commissioner Bob Ott pointed out that the governor’s grant would expire June 30, and the court officials conceded it would not be possible to spend the grant funds by then. To make a long story short, Ott expressed the possibility the county could be left footing the entire bill for the program.
So the commission, while expressing support for the concept, decided to table it for two weeks to clear up questions about the funding.
That was an understandable move, but one we hope will not sidetrack the push for the creation of such a court.
Cobb’s felony drug court and misdemeanor DUI court have proven to be outstanding successes, and there’s no question that a mental health court is needed and would be equally successful.