Specialized mental health court in Montgomery County

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There's already a drug court and a veterans court in Montgomery County. Naturally, the next step would be to address those with mental health issues.

The new mental health treatment court will be scheduled biweekly in the 221st Court in Montgomery County.  Anyone who has been diagnosed with mental issues and have been arrested for a crime will go before a judge there. They will get the kind of long term care they need from a judicial system that understands their state of mind. 

Gloria Kessler, director of the mental health court, says there is a real need for the program. She adds that out of the 1,500 or so people arrested each month and placed in the Montgomery County jail, there are around 200 who have a history of mental illness. That's why Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon agreed to the idea. 

Mike Shirley, who is in charge of the district attorney's office, says referrals for defendants will come from a variety of sources. He explains that the defendants will only qualify if they are not charged with major crimes like murder or aggravated robbery. He also says the court will accept anyone who has illnesses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, or even PTSD. It all depends.

In the meantime, Rick Brass with the Montgomery County Criminal Defense Attorney Association says he's hopeful for the plan but the success depends heavily if those in charge are truly committed. The first day of court will take place on Thursday and there are around a dozen referrals already in place.