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Mental health courts one step closer

A bill that would establish mental health courts throughout the state passed the House easily Thursday and now heads to the Senate.

Its fate there is less than certain. Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, has filed a similar bill several times only to see it pass the House but die in the Senate.

The mental health court system would operate like the state’s drug courts.

Currie has also included a provision for the court system in another bill. Two shots are better than one.

“We have it in two bills. This one and in the criminal justice reform bill. I hope this standalone bill makes it,” she said.

There is also an appropriations bill to fund the courts.

“After they are up and running we hope, like drug courts, they support themselves,” Currie said.

Why the Senate has killed the bill in previous years is unclear. Currie said it is a tragedy that people who need care can’t get it because of a lack of a mental health court system.

“I do not remember any legislation to help the mentally ill over the last eight years, which is unconscionable,” Currie said.

The court system would be set up through regional mental health centers and would have requirements like ensuring offenders are taking their medicine and following up with all appointments and treatments.

“If they don’t meet those requirements then a judge would determine whether they go to a state hospital or if they need to go to jail,” Currie said previously. “Our prisons are loaded with people who are mentally ill — some who maybe if they had the right treatment the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for them being in prisons. It’s the next step in Mississippi in mental health reform. I think this would save us money in the long run and be better for Mississippians. And, it’s the humane thing to do.”