Last week, the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation presented a $100,000 grant from its Community Capital Fund to immediately create a Mental Health Court in Baldwin County. The grant was presented just two days after legislation to perpetually fund a Mental Health Court in the county took effect.
Rep. Matt Simpson (R - Daphne) led the charge on the creation of the new court, securing stable funding through a bill passed in the legislature this year and getting startup funding immediately courtesy of the grant presented by the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation. Without the aid of the grant, it could have taken up to an entire year before enough funds were built to create a Mental Health Court in Baldwin Count.
This newly created Mental Health Court comes after nearly a decade of waiting and will be a significant benefit to Baldwin County. The court will offer direct help to people with mental health issues. Now, offenders suffering from mental health issues will be brought before the Mental Health Court, offering help to both those offenders suffering from mental health issues in Baldwin County as well as the victims of those suffering from mental health issues that commit crimes.
The new Mental Health Court will operate similarly to Baldwin County’s Drug Court and Veterans Court, diverting those who participate in the program from traditional jail sentences for their crimes. Potential participants of the Mental Health Court will be screened by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office and mental health experts from Altapointe to determine their candidacy for the program. Immediately upon the Mental Health Court’s inception, potential candidates for the program had already been identified through the Drug Court system. Predictions are as that many as one to two dozen candidates could benefit from the new court within the first year.
For years, the biggest mental health care provider in the state of Alabama came from the Department of Corrections and law enforcement. An estimated 120 of the county’s inmate population are dealing with mental health issues and could qualify for the Mental Health Court program.
This new court will be a huge benefit to Baldwin County, and a crucial turning point in rehabilitation services in South Alabama. Not only will the court benefit those who go through the program, but also their victims, the county jail, and law enforcement. Rather than traditional jail sentencing, these offenders suffering from mental health issues will now go through the Mental Health Court program where they will be connected with mental health services to help them lead productive and healthier lives.
We commend the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation, made up of Simpson, Sen. Chris Elliott, Sen. Greg Albritton, Rep. Harry Shiver, Rep. Alan Baker, Rep. Joe Faust and Rep. Steve McMillon, as well as Baldwin County District Attorney Bob Wilters, Maj. Jimmy Milton, chief deputy with the Baldwin County Corrections System, Judge Scott Taylor, District Court Judge Jody Bishop, Probate Court Judge Harry D’Olive, Baldwin County Commissioner Jeb Ball, representatives from Altapointe, and everyone who worked tirelessly on this program. Thanks to these individuals, Baldwin County can proudly say that it hosts the first Mental Health Court in Southwest Alabama.