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The Local Agenda: Enotah Circuit begins mental health clinic
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A new program aimed to get mentally ill nonviolent offenders treatment rather than just jail time is getting under way in the Enotah Judicial Circuit.

A state grant of $37,500 to fund Enotah Mental Health Court for fiscal year 2012 has been approved.

The mental health court strives to divert "low-risk defendants with mental illness" from jails and prisons through community-based treatment, according to a press release by the Ninth Judicial Administrative District.

Defendants with a history of "severe and persistent" mental illness can elect to work with a team of court and mental health professionals on treatment plans, the press release states.

They must also regularly appear at court hearings and treatment sessions.

The program attempts to address a large percentage of nonviolent mentally ill offenders in jail, as access to mental health treatment has declined.

"Mental health treatment options have kind of vanished in the last decade," said Steven M. Ferrell, the Ninth District court administrator.

Residents with mental illnesses used to get treatment in hospitals, he said; now many of them have run-ins with law enforcement.

"People have languished in jail because there is nowhere else to put them," Ferrell said.

Many of them would not be a risk, he said, with the right treatments and prescriptions.

The Enotah Judicial Circuit comprises Lumpkin, Towns, Union and White counties.

The circuit's mental health court was established by Superior Court Judge Murphy C. Miller in January.
$200,000 federal grant sought for Hall drug court

Boasting a recidivism rate under 10 percent for graduates, the Hall County Drug Court will pursue a federal grant to fund the program.

Hall County Drug Court, which began in 2001, is a program designed to encourage treatment over jail time for drug offenders.

There are two classes of participants: those who go through the dependency track and the ones seeking early intervention. Both tracks are a minimum of 24 months for offenders.

Upon successful completion of the program, participants' charges are dismissed.

According to county documents, the program "saves taxpayers $310,500 annually due to jail cost avoidance."
Hall County is applying for a grant that could offer up to $200,000 for the program.

To date, the Hall County Treatment Services Division has unsuccessfully applied for the program three times.
City Council work session moved to this morning

Gainesville City Council has rescheduled its work session for this morning.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, the City Council moved the work session to hold a time-sensitive executive session on a real estate matter at 8:30 a.m.

Work sessions are typically used for City Council members to hear reports from staff, ask questions and discuss the issues among themselves.

Work sessions are open to the public, but rarely draw attendance from residents.

That's because public comment is reserved for City Council meetings, when elected officials officially vote on city business.

The work session agenda is light. Keep Hall Beautiful Executive Director Cindy Reed will make a budget presentation; the Council will also hear two routine requests for alcoholic beverage licenses.

Aaron Hale covers government issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

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