State funding awarded to Paulding Mental Health Court
Paulding’s Board of Commissioners approved a request from the Paulding County Superior Court Judges to authorize the Chairman on behalf of the BoC to accept a Grant Awarded to Paulding’s Mental Health Court and to execute all necessary documents.
The Accountability Judges Funding Committee awarded Paulding’s court, $139,992 for program operations during FY2020, according to Paulding Superior Court Judge David Lyles, who heads up the mental health court program.
During the board’s last June morning session, Judge Lyles provided the board with an update on the court’s progress since starting up a year ago.
According to Lyles, the court is now fully staffed, has drafted a protocol, which they continue to update. Lyles said the official kick-off for the program was in March.
Lyles said the newly established court has four cases and all of them overlap as substance abuse cases.
Each of the participants came to the program with a dual-diagnosis of mental health issues and substance abuse issues ranging from alcohol, methamphetamine or cocaine. Lyles said all are working and on-track with program requirements and are working to mend their lives and break the cycle of incarceration.
Lyles said that the AJFC grant carries a 10 percent matching funds provision, which he noted could be paid out of the DATE fund.
The Drug Abuse Education and Treatment (DATE) fund is generated by a 50 percent surcharge that certain offenders have to pay as a part of their fine.
The DATE fund can only be used for drug abuse treatment and education programs or a Drug/DUI court. This surcharge is added to the base fine and collected by the superior, state, magistrate, probate and municipal court clerks and a clerk of any other lower court.
Paulding’s mental health court was the second program to be launched in the county involving more intensive sentencing alternatives for offenders that allow for intensive treatment and responsibility for the offenders to take on.
Paulding commissioners green-lighted the court in 2018. Surrounding counties such as Douglas have phased-in accountability courts, as well. The new court was added to Paulding’s felony drug court focused on substance abuse cases.
Judge Dean Bucci, who heads Paulding’s felony drug court, told the board in a previous address that studies show that the recidivism rate was at around 50 percent, but for those who successfully complete drug court, there is a significant reduction in that number.
And Bucci added that the program offers offenders leaving prisons some hope of genuine reform.
“When [an offender] comes into the court system, I as a Judge, don’t have a whole lot of options on what I can do with these people, so it becomes a revolving door,” Lyles said.
Lyles told commissioners that participants in the program are counseled on a weekly basis in group sessions and are in one-on-one sessions that address their individual cases, as well.
Lyles said he hopes to grow the program over the next year.
The new accountability courts seek to offer offenders who can meet the program requirements an alternative to incarceration and have as their goal a reduction in the recidivism rate. Lyles said the program seeks to address that problem at both ends. “A lot of that is what we’re trying to address, not only the incarceration on the front end but the follow-up,” said Lyles.