Baldwin County is one step closer to establishing its own mental health court after a bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson (R – Daphne) unanimously passed the Alabama House on Feb. …
Baldwin County is one step closer to establishing its own mental health court after a bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson (R – Daphne) unanimously passed the Alabama House on Feb. 25.
Simpson’s bill will help create a funding mechanism for the new mental health court, which will be a diversionary program for people with mental illnesses who have committed non-violent crimes.
“This is an issue that I’ve been looking at and working on for some time,” Simpson said. “We’ve had a situation in this county where people with mental illnesses have had to be sent to our county jail facility and that’s creating several problems, namely that the jail is having to become a de facto mental health service provider and puts those people with mental illnesses and the other inmates at potential safety and health risks.”
The mental health court diversionary program would operate similarly to existing diversionary programs already present in Baldwin County, like the Drug and Veterans Courts.
“The main goal with this program is really to get these folks the mental health services, help and support they need without putting additional strains on our jail facility and budget,” Simpson said. “This program would be to get them the help they need, not putting them in a jail cell where their underlying mental health problems could possibly be compounded.”
Simpson said his bill merely acts as a funding mechanism for the courts and said he trusts the district attorney’s office, judges and mental health officials to help bring the program to life and run it.
“How this mental health court will be set up and run, I wanted to leave that to our judges and our district attorney so that they could design and implement a program that works best for Baldwin County,” Simpson said. “They’re the experts in this – I just wanted to find a way to try to help pay for something we know is vitally needed here.”
Simpson’s bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.