The Waterford Township Board of Trustees has voted to amend its 2011 budget to allow the 51st District Court to take advantage of a $17,000 grant from the State Court Administrative Office.
The board’s decision came on Monday, Jan. 24.
According to 51st District Court Administrator Dennis Wynn, the money will be used to supplement the court’s existing sobriety court program.
“The grant will be used to help people in sobriety court who may have mental health issues,” he said.
This new grant will pay to continue a program the court created a few years ago with Community Mental Health and Common Ground. Deputy Court Administrator Jen Thom said the court had met with representatives from the police and fire departments and Community Mental Health to look at what parts of their joint operations worked well and which parts weren’t getting the job done. They agreed that their resources for the care of mentally ill people were limited.
They asked for and received a $50,000 federal grant in 2009 to put a part-time mental health screener to work within the court.
“The judges, probation officers, prosecutors and defense attorneys would get together and discuss who fit the criteria to be screened,” Thom said.
The criteria, she said, was strict. The officers of the court had to find more than depression or anxiety in a person to refer them for a screening. The threshold for referral was “someone who is seriously and persistently mentally ill. (The illness) must impede their ability to function.”
“Of the 307 people who were in sobriety court, 62 were referred for screening,” Thom said. “Of those, 41 met the criteria to be accepted into Community Mental Health.”
Since proving the need for the mental health program, Wynn said the officers of the court can continue to refer people they think would benefit from mental health services.
“If someone comes into the program and has need of mental health care, we’ll connect them with a service provider,” he said.
In late November, the court applied for a grant from the State Court Administrative office to start the program. They were notified a month later the grant was approved for $17,000.
The budget action at Monday’s meeting was just book-keeping. The court’s budget had been passed months ago and a formal action was required to show the grant on the books. For the township, the entire transaction is revenue-neutral.
“We’ll get money for our program from the township and they’ll get repaid by the state when they supply us,” Wynn said.