News & Press

Legislative Notebook: Bibb-style special court passes Senate

Legislative Notebook: Bibb-style special court passes Senate
The state Senate unanimously approved a bill that would make it easier for judicial circuits to set up mental health courts -- special diversion programs for offenders who have mental illnesses.
Bibb County’s mental health court has saved the county about $216,000 since it was founded,said Senate Bill 39 author Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, by getting repeat offenders back in the mainstream and out of jail.
In Bibb, River Edge Behavioral Health Center provides job training and medical care for mental health court clients.Grant’s bill advises how a state judicial circuit can best set rules and procedures for a mental health court, but does not require one to be set up.
A total of 13 jurisdictions already have such courts, generally on the county level. Now the bill moves across the Capitol for House consideration.
House aims to set up crisis mental health care
Georgians will have more places to seek crisis mental health care under a new bill just passed by the state House. House Bill 343 codifies the creation of “crisis stabilization units,” small inpatient mental health care facilities where doctors can intervene before a crisis escalates.
The state already has 20 such facilities, most for adults, which average 16 beds.
“We’re going to be hopefully establishing many more of these,” said bill author Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, so people “can go there instead of the state hospital.”
Under a Georgia settlement with the federal Department of Justice, the state is obligated to provide better mental health care including more CSUs. Right now, in places like The Medical Center of Central Georgia emergency room, people who need such crisis care often end up waiting several days for a place to open. The House approved it 150-5; it now awaits Senate action. River Edge Behavioral Health Center operates a Crisis Stabilization Unit for both adults and adolescents.