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Proposed Legislation Seeks Eventual Adoption Of Mental Health Court Program Across State

Report To The People
By Representative Tommy Reynolds

Mental illness is real and it hurts people from all walks of life. We are fortunate to be living in a time when people recognize the many issues that mentally ill citizens face – some of which become very public. Other issues may be hidden for a while, but inevitably, if a person is not treated, they will need help.

I am pleased to have handled a bill that passed the House Judiciary A committee last week that strengthens Mississippi’s mental health diversion court system. We are determined to make sure that the mentally ill are treated with compassion and appropriate measures if they have committed an offense.

We are well aware that in the past, indigent, mentally ill individuals were often placed in jail custody awaiting treatment. We also know that adjudicating issues involving mentally ill defendants must be addressed in a way that acknowledges the condition.

House Bill 1218 streamlines qualifications for those involved in the courts and standardizes reporting requirements to the Administrative Office of the Courts, which is directly under the supervision of the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Already, in about a fifth of Mississippi’s circuit court districts, a pilot program for mental health courts is underway. The bill we will be considering in the House attempts to strengthen the eventual adoption of the program by all of Mississippi’s circuit courts.

It is estimated that over 15 percent of those charged with criminal offenses have serious mental health issues. The mental health diversion court program gives qualifying, nonviolent offenders the opportunity to deal with their mental health needs under a strictly supervised program like our currently operating statewide drug court system.

It is time that we treated mental illness as the serious issue it is for so many Mississippi citizens. I am proud to help provide one significant way to help.
On Thursday, the House joined in observing National Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the 1945 Allied liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

For the past 15 years, I have invited members of the Jewish community to open the House session with prayer on this day. Members of the Hillel Society, the largest Jewish student organization in the U.S. honored us with prayer.

We remembered the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis, and we gave thanks for the 407,000 Americans who gave their lives during that horrific war to secure freedom, democracy, and the American way of life.

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