HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Graduation ceremonies were held in Hattiesburg Friday for an award-winning program which is an alternative to incarceration for misdemeanor criminal offenders with mental health issues.
Friday morning, seven people were recognized for completing the requirements of the Hattiesburg Behavioral Health Court.
It's been around since 2010 and has been funded by a federal grant which ends on Dec. 31.
Municipal court judge Jerry Evans said hopes to continue the program by incorporating much of it into city court operations.
"This court is going to absorb as much of the program as it can," said Evans. "It can't support the whole program, but hopefully, the community will step forward. Hopefully, the community will see the value of this," Evans said.
"I really believe that it's important to keep the program going, because it's an alternative for those that the jail is not the right place for," said Dorothea Van Buren, program coordinator. "So, if they want to work towards getting themselves better, this is the program for them," she said.
A total of 18 offenders have graduated from the program.