Plans in the works to create a Mental Health Court

YAKIMA, Wash. -- You've heard of drug court and DUI court in Yakima County, but now there are plans to create a mental health court. The program could let mentally ill criminals out of jail to get treatment.

It also means they could live near you.

For most criminals, jail is only temporary. But when they get out they don't always stay out -- especially the mentally ill.

"We call them frequent fliers," said said Yakima County Court Administrator Harold Delia. "Just keep coming back and never treat the cause. Just the symptom."

Delia says the cause would be addressed in what he calls Mental Health Court.

It would rehabilitate those whose mental health is worse than the crime committed. Criminals would get out of jail and, instead, live among you and me, but is it safe?

"We put them in jail, but usually they get released pending a hearing. What this will allow us to do is make them accountable. We will watch them every week. In reality, this probably makes them more accountable and the community safer," Delia said.

Each department within law and justice is on board. In fact, both the prosecutors and public defenders office are lending their services at no cost. Comprehensive mental health would prescribe medicine and other services through medicaid and insurance. The jail would provide transportation.

The only real cost comes from the court. Delia estimates those weekly check-ups would be less than 50-thousand dollars a year -- far less than the $400,000 it would take to house them. Ultimately saving your tax dollars and helping those who need it.

Administrators would hand pick inmates for the program. Violent or extremely aggressive criminals won't qualify.

The pilot program would start with 10 inmates.

County Commissioners still have to approve the budget. If it goes through it could start before summer.