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Sebastian County Judge approved to apply for mental health court grant

Times Record - 6/20/2019

Jun. 20--Sebastian County will once again try to secure funds to implement a mental health court.

Sebastian County justices of the peace approved a resolution authorizing County Judge David Hudson to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program during the county Quorum Court meeting Tuesday.

In a memo to the Quorum Court, Hudson stated the mental health court grant the county submitted in 2018 was not approved. The grant is an 80 percent federal and 20 percent local match grant. The county's local match is to be provided by a portion of existing position salaries that will be involved in establishing and administering the mental health court.

"The grant guidelines allow for up to a $750,000 project with $150,000 20 percent matching funds and $600,000 federal funds administered over a three year time frame," Hudson said. "The grant has two phases, phase 1 for planning the mental health court up to six months and phase 2 for implementation of the new mental health court."

Hudson called the grant a collaborative approach to establishing a mental health court working closely with a variety of people, including Sebastian County Circuit Judge Annie Hendricks, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue and Rusti Holwick, CEO of the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center, among others.

A new position, a specialty court case worker, is also required to support the mental health court at an annual cost of $32,500, Hudson said. The grant would pay the salary for the first three years of the mental health court. Earmarked grant funds from county positions supporting the court are recommended to be held in a separate account. These will then be used to help pay for the new position for another three years. The mental health court program and the budget will be modified to help support future court operations during this time.

"We're estimating that, based on how the drug court program works, we could generate some fees for program participation, maybe $15,000 a year," Hudson said.

The grant application is due June 25.

JPs also approved a motion to declare an emergency for two full-time bailiffs that will begin July 1 to be considered during the meeting. The positions are needed to support the new seventh circuit judgeship for the 12th Judicial District serving Sebastian County. This circuit judgeship was approved during the 2019 Arkansas legislative session, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointing District Judge Gunner Delay to the position. Delay will begin July 1.

The funding for the two positions for the rest of the year beginning July 1 is $37,795 and will come from the county general fund, after approval by JPs as part of an appropriation ordinance. The ordinance states the annual cost for the positions will be $84,543.

Hudson also stated in his executive report District 12 JP Bob Schwartz submitted a letter of resignation Tuesday due to health issues.

The next regular Sebastian County Quorum Court meeting is scheduled for July 16.

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(c)2019 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

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