State needs mental health court system

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Mississippi needs a mental health court system, and the House of Representatives did its part to make that happen. Rep. Becky Currie’s bill to create the court system passed the House 116-0.

But the courts won’t be established through Currie’s bill, if at all. House Bill 334 died in a Senate committee Tuesday. There is a provision in another bill that includes the creation of a committee to develop plans for a mental health court system.

That bill might make it, but it’s unclear if the provision for mental health courts will survive.

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Currie is obviously disappointed that her legislation died in the Senate, the same as it has before.

“I hate that the bill died because I wanted to make sure that it passed and we begin to care for our mentally ill patients and not continue to let them fall through the cracks,” she said.

Currie’s bill would have created a court system similar to drug court, but for those with mental health problems. The idea is simple: Some caught in the court system need treatment, not jail time.

The 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.”

Currie is right. We hope her idea of a court system for the mentally ill survives in the other bill and is quickly implemented.