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City of Kansas City, Mo.

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Mental health court awarded new grant

The Mental Health Court, one of the five specialty courts of the City of Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court, has been awarded a $55,000 grant by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (HCF). The recently approved one-year grant will remain in effect until Feb. 8, 2012.

The grant supports a component of the Mental Health Court’s Diversion Program, which was designed to provide treatment to people with diagnosed mental illnesses charged with City ordinance violations. Through this program, the Mental Health Court gives low-income defendants with mental health problems the option of accepting mental health assessment and community-based treatment from Swope Health Services instead of going to jail.

The Diversion Program is based on the premise that incarceration is ineffective for people whose antisocial acts are due more from the lack of proper medical treatment than criminal intent.

Funds from the grant will be used to subcontract with Legal Aid of Western Missouri to provide critical paralegal services that are necessary for the Diversion Program’s operations. In addition to coordinating activities with caseworkers, treatment providers and social service professionals, the paralegals help attorneys provide individualized attention to defendants, all of whom require unique guidance.

“This grant allows us to maintain the high level of services that we are known for providing to defendants who have been diagnosed with serious mental health issues,” said Judge John B. Williams, who leads the Mental Health Court.

Persons who participate in this court typically suffer from a number of mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorder, depression, mental retardation or a combination of conditions.

The Mental Health Court, which was established in 2002 with funding from the Community-Based Anti-Drug Tax (COMBAT) and the Mental Health Levy, was designed to identify, treat and monitor offenders whose behavioral problems are considered to be medically treatable. Kansas City, Mo., was the first local government in the area to craft and implement this indispensable problem-solving tool to address the underlying causes of recidivism that are related to mental health issues. In the last eight years, the Municipal Mental Health Court has diverted more than 2,000 mentally ill defendants from jail to professional treatment and reduced recidivism by approximately 60 percent.

For additional information, please contact Assistant to the City Manager John Franklin at 816-513-3900.


City News Releases - 2011

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