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Budget Woes Claim Another Victim In Montgomery County

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By Matt Bush

Budget woes in Montgomery County, Maryland have scrapped plans for a mental health court...for now. The court would deal exclusively with those arrested that test positive for mental illness.

Dr. Raymond Crowel is the chief of the county's behavioral health and crisis services. He says they had high hopes for such a court, but then came the county's major budget deficit.

"At present time, it does not look like a mental health court is feasible in the county," he says.

Close to a quarter of those arrested in Montgomery County are tested for mental disorders, according to Athena Morrow, who is a supervisor for the county's clinical assessment and triage services. She says such a court would help detainees receive treatment more quickly, which is important since many repeat offenders have untreated mental health problems.

Morrow says such offenders get more violent as they get older, citing one man who's been arrested more than 130 times since 1992.

"They were all mostly all alcohol related: disorderly, open containers, trespassing charges in the past," she says. "Until recently when this individual came in on arson."

Councilman George Leventhal says he understands the budget is limiting them, but he feels a mental health court could save the county money by keeping more people out of prison.

"Why we can't we understand what it's costing us to incarcerate these people and assume some savings there," he says.

Jurisdictions nationwide, 175 of them, have some sort of mental health court, including Prince George's County in Maryland.

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