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Kent County Board Approves Mental Health Court Funding

Kent County seal
Kent County

A new grant given to the Kent County Board of Commissioners will create a Mental Health Court in the county. This specialized court docket was created for certain defendants with mental illness. 

“What the mental health court will do is it will pair social work and treatment with the criminal justice system for individuals that don’t fit real nicely in the criminal justice system.”

That’s Ross Buitendorp, Director of Network Services at Network 180.  He along with others are celebrating the upcoming Mental Health Court.  The first one in Kent County.  Just yesterday the Kent County Board of Commissioners accepted a $193,000 grant to institute the court.  A county news release states that approximately 10 percent of the jail population is severely mentally ill, which adds up to more than 100 people on any given day.  Buitendorp says the new court will be a tremendous help.

“So for individuals who have severe mental illness, they may come to attention of police, or be doing something they should not be doing and it’s a result of their mental illness, so they’re booked and they’re put in jail and it’s just not a great place for them. It doesn’t help them get better. And so the Mental Health Court it really, it works with that individual.”

The goals of the program include a reduction in recidivism for defendants, and a corresponding reduction in jail bed days. When fully operational, the court will have a caseload of 45 clients. It is anticipated that most, if not all, clients in the mental health court will be managed in the community while being engaged in treatment.  The Kent County mental health court will focus on serving individuals who have a severe mental illness and are charged with a felony.

Buitendorp says they’re in the process of hiring and the like and should see their first clients by early to mid-December.

Jennifer is an award winning broadcast news journalist with more than two decades of professional television news experience including the nation's fifth largest news market. She's worked as both news reporter and news anchor for television and radio in markets from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo all the way to San Francisco, California.