Judge seeks grant to fund diagnosis, treatment for veterans and mentally ill offenders

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Madison County Veterans Court and Mental Health Court judges recognize sometimes criminal behavior is a result of a deeper issue – like mental illness or substance abuse.

“Sometimes it’s because they don`t take the medication they`re prescribed for mental health issues or self-medicate with illegal substances or alcohol,” explained Judge Ruth Ann Hall, who leads the program.

Hall says the goal is to get people the help they need rather than just throw them in jail.

“[We want ] to make sure they have an appropriate diagnosis, that they are seeking treatment for and obtaining treatment and proper medication for any illnesses they may have. And if they have a substance abuse problem we would like for them to get treatment for that,” said Hall.

Unfortunately, they don`t have the funding. Just obtaining an assessment is difficult, let alone getting treatment.

“Because of the numbers involved, because of overburdened systems, the fact that Madison County Mental Health Center does an excellent job but have been cut and cut and can only do so much.”

To help ease the burden Hall is seeking a roughly $41,000 ADECA grant. The Madison County Commission voted Wednesday morning to approve her application.

The money will help with assessments, drug and alcohol screenings, and help those who can`t afford to pay for treatment.

“If someone is on disability or not able to work and their benefits haven’t been established yet, and I require them to drug screen, a drug screen is $20 a piece,” said Hall. “Some people need to be screened every week. So $20 doesn’t seem like a whole lot but if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and someone is asking you to pay $80 a month – sometimes you have to choose between being in violation of court rules and paying a bill.”

Hall says in her experience she has found many people need treatment over incarceration. If they qualify for Mental Health Court, she wants them to have a chance to get better.

“[If they are] unable to pay for [treatment], we are setting them up to fail if we can`t find subsidies or abilities to find affordable treatment.”