Matt Simpon sponsored bill will establish mental health court in Baldwin
A bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Simpson of Daphne creating a mental health court for Baldwin County has passed the Alabama House and Senate and has been signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.
“What it is, is a diversion program. If someone is suffering from mental health problems or diagnosed with mental health problems, this gives them access to treatment instead of putting them where they have to serve time in jail, have to go through the downward spiral that is the criminal justice system,” said Simpson.
Simpson said the ten current mental health courts in the state are all north of Montgomery. He says if people follow the program, they avoid criminal conviction.
“This is for small crimes, public intoxication, theft of property, nothing violent, where we catch them before they become violent criminals,” said Simpson.
The bill creates a funding mechanism for the new court and would operate much like the drug and veterans courts already established in Baldwin County. Mental illness in the county jail has created several problems and is also a safety concern for both inmates and corrections officers, according to local officials. 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.”