Verdict: Mental health court coming to Davis County

Apr 27 2010 - 12:05am

SALT LAKE CITY -- With just a simple "yes," Davis County received the green light to start up its own mental health court program.

The Utah Judicial Council on Monday, with no discussion, voted unanimously for the program, which was part of the consent items on its agenda. The council oversees the courts in the state.

"It will help us," said 2nd District Court Associate Presiding Judge Thomas L. Kay, who was not at the meeting.

Kay said the current problem judges in Davis County face are defendants with mental health issues who have been charged with nonviolent crimes.

When faced with such a defendant charged with a crime, all a judge can do is sentence the person as a regular defendant.

A mental health court is run like a drug court or a court that handles cases of driving under the influence, said Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Defendants who qualify have to come to court on a more regular basis and report their progress in taking medication, receiving counseling, holding down a job and having a place to live, he said.

The county has submitted an application to receive a federal grant to help defray some costs, although running a mental health court will not cost taxpayers that much more, Rawlings said.

"We're not creating any new defendants," he said. "The defendants are already there. This is just a more effective and better way to handle their cases."

The county should know by September if it has received the federal grant.

If it does not receive the grant, Rawlings' office, the judges and the Davis County Commission are committed to go forward anyway, but on a smaller scale and by October, Rawlings said.

"Morally, it's the right thing to do," he said.

Rawlings said Salt Lake County mental health court has reduced the number of days defendants with mental health issues have had to stay in "expensive jail beds."

Many of those with mental health issues end up revolving through the judicial system because judges do not have many options on what they can do with them, Rawlings said.

"We want to help (the mentally ill) learn how to cope with life."

Updated 12:04 a.m.

Mental health court in Davis County gets OK

SALT LAKE CITY -- A mental health court in Davis County received a green light from the Utah Judicial Council on Monday.

The council voted unanimously to approve the consent calendar, which included creating a mental health court in 2nd District Court in Farmington.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, who was not at the meeting in Salt Lake City, said his office, Davis County Commission and the judges in 2nd District are committed to get the program going. Now they've received the green light from the judicial council, which oversees the courts in the state.

The county has applied for a federal grant and hopes to receive it by September. If it does not receive it, the county will still go forward with the mental health court program, but on a smaller scale, Rawlings said.

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