September 19, 2003
Mental Health Court Coming to Marlboro County
Columbia, SC – Today, the office of United States Senator Fritz Hollings announced that the U.S. Justice Department has awarded a grant to Marlboro County to develop a mental health court.
The mental health court is a collaboration between the Marlboro County Probate Court and the SC Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) to provide a treatment alternative to non-violent offenders with mental illnesses who come into contact with the criminal justice system. It is anticipated that up to fifty persons will be served during the first year of the grant.
Marlboro County Probate Judge Mark Heath will oversee the two-year project. The grant award of $149,000 will provide for some of the administrative costs, a mental health counselor, and a caseworker for the probate court.
Said Tri-county Community Mental Health Center Executive Director Janice Rozier, “Mental health court grants usually go to more urban areas, so we are pleased that the grant came to Marlboro County. It’s a wonderful opportunity to do something innovative that will help insure that people with mental illness get treatment rather than land in the criminal justice system.”
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 illnesses.
The staff will also provide judicial oversight and monitor persons 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, make arrangements to participate with a local pharmacy in an indigent medication program, provide for transportation to doctor visits, and facilitate the coordination with the individual's probation officer, if applicable.
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.
The mental health court in Marlboro County will be one of three in South Carolina. Similar courts have been set up this year in both Charleston and Richland counties.
The SCDMH offers services through a statewide network of seventeen community mental health centers, five psychiatric hospitals, and two nursing care centers.