Mahoning County's first mental health court would be presided over by Youngstown Municipal Judge Robert Douglas.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR HEALTH WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Mental Health Board is slotted to receive a $2,000 planning grant for a proposed mental health court, and will seek $300,000 a year in federal money for each of the next three years to operate the court.
The court would be conducted by Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Douglas, Ron Marian, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board, said at Thursday's board meeting.
Marian said a mental health court would operate similarly to the common pleas drug court.
He said certain offenders with mental health problems would be separated out and offered counseling, programs and medications in lieu of jail time.
Even though the mental health board is a county agency, Marian said the board wants the mental health court in municipal court because most of the people in need of such services reside within Youngstown.
Marian said Judge Douglas has already been separating out mental health offenders in his court.
A dedicated mental health court would possibly meet once a week to handle that population, Marian said.
Funds made available: Marian said recently passed federal law made money available for mental health courts, and the first one in Ohio was established in Summit County.
He said plans are in the works to visit the Summit County mental health court to see how it works and to invite its administrator here for meetings with local officials.
Marian said competition for the federal dollars will be stiff and there will be only two or three courts funded in Ohio.
He believes Mahoning County has sufficient diversion programs in place and sufficient numbers of people in the criminal justice system with mental health problems to warrant strong consideration for an operating grant.
He said the money would be used to hire additional personnel, such as case managers, nurses to dispense medications and probation officers to serve the court.
The grant application will probably be made to the Ohio Attorney General's office in the fall, and if approved, Marian said the board hopes to have the court up and running by the end of the year.