Dawson County has received a state grant designed to help mental health patients involved in the criminal justice system live productive lives.
County commissioners on Thursday approved a proposal by Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin to accept the grant, which would establish a local mental health court.
In a letter dated Oct. 26, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that the Dawson County H.E.L.P. Program had been awarded a $69,213 grant from Accountability Court Funding Committee.
"As you know, expanding and strengthening accountability courts in Georgia is not only one of my top initiatives as governor, but also a very strong personal interest," Deal wrote. "I have seen firsthand the success stories that come out of courtrooms like yours.
"By providing you with the resources you need and expanding these services throughout the state, we can improve public safety by rehabilitating the appropriate offenders."
The local court would be similar to Hall County's Health, Empowerment, Linkage and Possibilities, or H.E.L.P., program that Gosselin helped establish in 2004.
Dawson and Hall counties form the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, where Gosselin presides.
According to the judge, the program's goal is to link participants with community resources that allow them to live healthy, productive lives and reduce or eliminate future involvement with the criminal justice system.
"This is for folks that have mental health issues and end up in the criminal justice system because they have mental health issues, not folks that are criminals that also have mental health issues, but folks that really don't belong in the criminal justice system," she said.
Gosselin added that those who graduate will have a solid foundation to build upon in order to become a productive member of the community.
Commission Chairman Mike Berg said the mental health court would run much like the county's drug and DUI courts that help "people regain their sanctity" in society.
"It looks like a great program that will be of no cost to us," Berg said.
The grant is for one year and is renewable for three years.