May 13th, 2015
Tim Smith wrote a nice piece in the Greenville News this morning about the SC House passing bill S.426, the Mental Health Court Program Act. This is an exciting victory in South Carolina, and we hope to see many more in the coming months and years!
The House gave key approval Tuesday to a bill to expand the state’s mental health courts.
The 98-2 vote came after no debate.
After a final reading, the bill will head to Gov. Nikki Haley.
Mental health courts divert mentally ill offenders away from the criminal justice system and into treatment programs, much as drug courts do for drug offenders.
Currently, three mental health courts operate in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston. Grants for their operation ran out years ago but they have continued to operate, officials say. Two other courts have closed in recent years due to lack of funding.
“It’s nice to see both bodies working together for the greater good of our state,” said Paton Blough, a Greenville mental health advocate who proposed the bill last year [….] “Hopefully, this is the beginning of years of mental health reform to come.”
Blough and other supporters for the bill, including Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Camden Democrat who authored the bill, have argued the legislation would save lives and taxpayers’ dollars.
Sheheen’s bill doesn’t include funding but he has said he hopes to eventually find money in the budget to assist the courts.