By Matt Bush
In Maryland, budget problems are preventing Montgomery County from starting a mental health court. The court would deal with people who are arrested and have mental or behavioral disorders. Nearly a quarter of those arrested in the county are suspected to have some sort of mental health problem, and are then evaluated.
While the county has decided it can't afford to create the special court, councilman George Leventhal hopes the council will revisit the idea. He believes such a court could end up saving the county money by finding alternatives to prison.
"We're devoting vast amounts of resources. 22-percent of our population could be subject to some sort of diversion. Diversion ought to be cheaper than incarceration. And so, we're saying we don't have the resources to do the diversion because it's a change to the status quo. We're wedded to the status quo, but the status quo is costing us a lot of money," says Leventhal.
Neighboring Prince Georges County is one of 175 jurisdictions nationwide with some form of a mental health court.