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Local

Executive order halts Grundy Mental Health Court funding

Governor's executive order freezes money designated for court

MORRIS – The Grundy County Mental Health Court program has been put on hold due to the governor's executive order freezing all state discretionary spending, including halting the awarding of contracts and grants.

“Years of bad decisions have put Illinois in a financial crisis,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a Jan. 12 news release, when the order was signed. “Today we start the process of putting our state back on the road to fiscal stability by reviewing agency spending, stopping contracts and grants, and selling excess state property.”

In January, local officials and professionals, working together for five years to obtain approval for the Mental Health Court, announced they were moving forward after receiving a $51,380 grant from Adult Redeploy Illinois.

That grant was stopped with the executive order.

"We're approved by the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority and have all of our documents in place," Judge Lance Peterson said Tuesday. "We were informed that the governor's executive order froze all contracts while the governor's office decides what will be funded."

Mental Health Court, designed to divert nonviolent, mentally ill offenders away from prisons and into a rehabilitation program, was scheduled to start Feb. 1 in Grundy County.

Peterson said four defendants were identified to appear in court next week.

Instead, the defendants will have to go through traditional court and will have to discuss with their lawyers what they will do. He said the Grundy County justice system has always been sensitive to defendants who would benefit from mental health services.

Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland said members of the mental health team are looking at other options to continue to move ahead with the court.

"We figured as a team to continue to have meetings and see if we can move forward," Helland said. "We can't just fold up and go home."

Organizers originally submitted an application for $100,000 for a full year and hoped to begin the program last fall. But they were told the money was not available and to resubmit a grant application for six months.

The group received word Jan. 8 that the resubmitted application was approved.

The funding comes from the state and is administered through Illinois Adult Redeploy, an organization sponsoring state programs aimed at reducing prison overcrowding, disrupting the incarceration cycle and saving taxpayer money.

Helland said the goal is to keep mentally ill offenders from recommitting crimes and returning to prison by providing proper medication and treatments.

Grundy County Mental Health Court organizers and advocates include Peterson, Helland, the public defender’s office, the probation department, Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan’s office, the Grundy County Health Department and Susie Galloway with Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers.

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