Wichita Municipal Court officials tell us that the city has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a mental health court.
City officials say the court has been trying to get a grant for two years. Although they don’t know how much money they’ll be getting, they have received approval for federal funding.
The word on the new court follows a story I wrote for the Eagle about the growing problem of mentally ill people ending up in prison and another story about the training received by police for handling mentally ill people in crisis situations.
According to criminal justice experts, the mental health court is the next step in helping reduce the numbers in prison. Mental health courts follow the model of drug courts as a way of giving alternatives to punishment for people who may have run afoul of the law because of their illnesses or addictions.
Wichita Municipal Court has already developed drug courts for city offenders charged with misdemeanors.
Sedgwick County District Court is beginning a drug court for more serious offenders this fall. Parole officers and mental health providers have told us they hope that a mental health court for felony offenders also will follow.