New Mental Health Court Launched in Fayette County

A judicial diversion program for helping mentally ill citizens recently started in Fayette County District Court. Mayor Jim Gray joined Judge Kim Wilkie in announcing the opening of a new Mental Health Court. The court held its first session in late November.

“This program is about getting people off the streets and into the treatment they need to lead productive lives instead of continuing to cycle through our criminal justice system,” Gray said. “Mental Health Court will improve the lives of its participants and public safety in Lexington, and have the added benefit of saving taxpayer money.”

“Two years ago, a group of stakeholders from the mental health and criminal justice communities identified Mental Health Court as an important project worth supporting,” Wilkie said. “All Fayette County residents should be proud of the direction the community is taking in providing more assistance to citizens with mental health issues and continuing to make Lexington a great place to live and work.”

Similar to the successful Drug Court and Veterans Court programs, Mental Health Court is an alternative to the traditional judicial system. Eligible participants include nonviolent defendants who have been referred to mental health court by a judge. The goal is to reduce the incarceration rate of mentally ill offenders through mental health treatment services, court supervision and improved personal accountability.

The City’s Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention will provide startup funding to support the Mental Health Court in its first few years of operation. A Request for Proposals was issued to identify potential staffing and case management models for Mental Health Court. Funding for the project will go before the Urban County Council for approval.

“Mental illness is a major contributing factor to homelessness in Lexington and some of our citizens are caught in a cycle of streets, jails and institutions,” said Charlie Lanter, Director of the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention. “By supporting this diversion program, we expect to stabilize some of the more chronically homeless individuals in our community and help them secure housing and other necessary supports to keep them off the streets.”

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