SC Department of Mental Health News Release

South Carolina Department of Mental Health
2414 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29202

June 17, 2004
For Immediate Release
Contact:          Norman Robertson, Executive Director
                        Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Mental Health Center
                        864-260-2220

Mental Health Court Coming to Anderson County

Columbia, SC – The SC Department of Public Safety has awarded a one-year grant of $72,515 to Anderson County to develop a mental health court.

The mental health court is collaboration among the Anderson County Probate Court, the Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Mental Health Center, law enforcement, Magistrate’s Office, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, the County Solicitor’s Office, the Detention Center, and the County Public Defender’s Office.

The underlying philosophy of the mental health court is that individuals committing misdemeanors often need treatment to address mental health problems rather than incarceration. It is the hope that with treatment and ongoing follow-up, the individuals served will move toward wellness and recovery and remain in the community.

A mental health court coordinator will be hired to oversee the project. The grant award will provide for some of the administrative costs, a mental health counselor, and a caseworker for the probate court.

Said Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Mental Health Center Executive Director Norman Robertson, “This effort will not only assist Anderson County citizens with serious and persistent mental illness to avoid being treated in the jail or law enforcement center, but will also result in their receiving intensive case management and the medication needed to pursue constructive activities in the community.

“At the Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Mental Health Center, there is a history of advocating not only for the treatment people need and the assistance they require, but to enhance their opportunity to live with dignity in the community. We believe the mental health court will provide a much needed resource toward these goals.”

Working closely with law enforcement and the county jail, mental health center staff will identify, assess and offer psychiatric treatment and follow-up services to individuals who find themselves in the criminal justice system as a result of their mental illness.

The staff will also provide judicial oversight and monitor people who have agreed to treatment. Along with offering mental health services, the program will connect individuals with substance abuse treatment, help with securing housing and employment, provide for transportation to doctor visits, and facilitate the coordination with the individual’s probation officer, if applicable.

The mental health court in Anderson County will be one of four in South Carolina. Similar courts have been set up in Richland, Charleston, and Marlboro counties.

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health provides services through a network of 17 community mental health centers, two hospitals, and two nursing care centers, including one for Veterans.

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