The funding would come through from Gov. Greg Abbott’s Public Safety Office as a fiscal year 2021-22 project. If received, it will not require a financial match from the county, officials said.
“Williamson County is really trying to address mental health in a very proactive way and not make our jail be the mental health hospital, which is not the most productive for anyone and also help with recidivism,” Commissioner Valerie Covey said.
The is the second time the county has applied for the grant, first in 2020, which was not given as the governor’s office was not issuing grant funding for this category due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
“The need for this program is greater than ever, and so we are again submitting this request,” the agenda read.
The court will be presided over by 26th State District Court Judge Donna King. Its purpose will be to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety, improve the quality of life of individuals with a mental illness involved in the criminal justice system and more effectively utilize government-allocated funding to reduce future costs, the agenda said.
The court plans to help address the cyclical issue of mentally ill individuals who face felony charges, an issue that has only been exacerbated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.
The program will use best practices, the research-based recovery model, monitoring and supervision to encourage behavioral changes that will reduce future criminal activity and incarceration, the agenda said. Data will be collected and monitored to prove program effectiveness, it said.
Williamson County operates several specialty court programs, including a DWI/drug court, veterans treatment court and emerging adult court, all geared toward addressing mental health issues and reducing recidivism.
“As somebody who's worked with the mental health docket, it is invaluable,” Commissioner Russ Boles said. “They need our help.”