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Mental health courts may still survive

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, said she is hopeful that mental health courts survive as part of an overall criminal justice bill, though a committee she vice-chairs allowed a standalone mental health courts bill to die.

Rep. Becky Currie’s bill to create mental health courts died in the Senate Judiciary A Committee Tuesday, which Doty serves on as vice-chair.

“I am hopeful that the specialty courts will survive,” Doty said. “Of course, the issue is always funding. It takes money to provide the specialty services that these courts may require.”

Currie believes the mental health court system can save the state money. She envisions a court system for the mentally ill similar to drug court. The court system could ensure treatment and keep those suffering from mental illness out of jail.

“Every legislator believes it will be a good thing for the state and mentally ill patients,” she said. “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.”

“If they would let it out in the Senate (out of committee), it would pass,” Currie said.  The Senate has allowed Currie’s bill to die in committee in previous legislative sessions.

County officials may get pay raise

A bill that will increase pay for many county elected officials passed the House Wednesday. Currie voted against the measure, along with 13 other representatives. Rep. Vince Mangold, R-Brookhaven, voted in favor. Doty voted for the bill when it was in the Senate.

The pay increases would be financed by increased fees for filing government documents and court cases.

Pay for county supervisors would increase by $10,000 a year, with supervisors making $39,000 to $56,700 after the raise, depending on the value of property in a county. Circuit and chancery clerks would be paid up to $99,000 in fees generated by their office, up from $90,000 now.

The move comes as lawmakers, most running for re-election this year, also consider raises for teachers and state employees. The Senate and House must resolve differences before the measure goes to the governor.