Lawmakers look expand Mental Health court statewide

When it comes to battling mental illness, Genesee County is leading the way.

â??Mental illness, in layman's terms, is just a chemical imbalance,â?? says The Honorable Jennie Barkey, a Genesee County probate judge. â??Once the chemicals are right, these are the brightest, most fun, neatest people you've ever met in your life,â?? she adds.

Judge Barkey and Steven Mays created Michigan's first mental health court.

â??We started the court in October of 2007,â?? says Mays who works at The Genesee County Health System.

Now, there are 16 statewide. Lawmakers want a court like the one in Flint in every county.

â??I am happy, I am so happy,â?? says Judge Barkey.

A recent study finds those treated in mental health court are less likely to be repeat offenders. Advocates say it can also prevent tragedies.

â??We don't have to wait until they're hallucinating and running naked in the streets or hurting other people shooting up like we just had that shooting this week (Washington, D.C. Naval Yard Shooting), we don't have to wait for that crisis,â?? says Barkey.

Instead, the court orders offenders to take their medication, perform community service and report back weekly.

â??They're able to be out in the community getting the treatment they need rather than filling up the jails with people that could be getting treated instead,â?? says Mays.

Prevention is key---something lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem to agree on.

â??Itâ??s wonderful when people can put politics aside for the benefit of people, says Barkey.

The Genesee County Mental Health Court has seen 291 cases since 2007, 117 of those participants have successfully graduated the program.

As for the bill, it's now headed to the state senate.