Georgia has established 16 mental health courts in the last decade, trying to divert the mentally ill from jail to treatment, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. So far, the courts have made a difference. In DeKalb County, the court has help cut recidivism rates. That success is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive need. Over the past decades, the closing of mental hospitals has put thousands of people with mental illness on the street and, many times, in jail.
“It's time we work smarter instead of simply prosecuting mentally ill offenders and temporarily removing them from our communities, only to have them return less stable and without supervision,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said. The state has increased mental health funding. This year, the state also added seven more assertive community treatment (ACT) teams, bringing the number of state-funded teams to 19, with three more coming by next summer. The 10-member teams include psychiatrists, nurses, clinical sociologists, caseworkers and vocational specialists. They assess the mentally ill on the streets, then bring the treatment to them.