Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Montero announced receipt of a $600,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). He and Program Specialist for the Court Brooke O’Byrne met briefly Oct. 9 with the Humboldt County Commissioners to advise them of the grant, saying more details will follow.
The grant will come to the court over a two year period, $300,000 a year, to support a collaborative mental health program.
“It’s an opportunity to expand our mental health court and the programs we’re offering in relation to providing mental health services,” said Montero. “It is also an opportunity for us to work closely with the Sheriff’s Office and the justice court in looking at ways to provide treatment services to individuals at the point of arrest or in the lower justice court, before they make their way into into the district court system.”
The judge said the grant is so new that he’s only had the opportunity to discuss it very briefly with the sheriff. “I’m looking forward to meeting and discussing this further with him,” he told the commissioners.
Montero said he has had a preliminary discussion with Justice of the Peace Letty Norcutt about ways in which the courts could work together in implementing this grant.
O’Byrne said mental health court is a problem-solving court that works to connect community members with needed behavioral health services, rather than the “revolving door” often experienced by people who have mental health needs coming into and out of the courts and jail system.
“One of the things the grant will do is make it possible for mental health court to help pay for counseling and treatment for people who do not have money or insurance to cover it themselves. “It will also help those who are under-insured,” she added. Right now, mental health court can accept only those who can fully cover the costs of their mental health treatment.
The judge noted, as a parting comment to the commissioners, that he was so very pleased at what they are accomplishing with the specialty courts, including mental health court, adult drug court, adolescent drug court and after care programs.
“I’m really proud to see what we’re doing with our programs now,” he said. “When I started, we had a specialty court budget of $200,000 or $300,000;
"I think we’re now at about $1.3 million through grants we’ve been able to obtain to provide greater services to the community. I’m very excited about that."
“We always worry as one [grant] is getting ready to end; that’s what we always talk about when grants are over,” Montero said, adding he and his staff feel very fortunate and pleased to see what they’ve been able to add to the budget with grant funding to provide services.