Representatives with Council of State Governments visit Hattiesburg to observe court program

Representatives with Council of State Governments visit Hattiesburg to observe court program

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A group of federal officials visited Hattiesburg Tuesday to observe a one-of-a-kind court in the state.

Representatives with The Council of State Governments met with Municipal Court Judge Jerry Evans and his staff as well as mental health providers to learn more about the Behavioral Court located in Hattiesburg.

The representatives learned about the collaboration between the criminal justice system and behavioral healthcare systems.

"With every program there is always improvements that can be made" said Sarah Wurzburg with the C.S.G. Justice Center. "It seems like they have started to build a stronger process of communication and are collaborating with the court, so that's always great to see."

The Behavioral Court's goal is to link people who suffer from mental health issues to the appropriate treatment services. T

his court is located in the Municipal Court of Hattiesburg and offers treatment to misdemeanor offenders who suffer with mental illness.

"It's a diversion from incarceration and linkage to treatment services to try to help the person address their underlying medical and health needs," said Steve Goss, a visiting Circuit Court Judge from Albany, Georgia.

The court has been operating on an initial grant of $228,000 grant from the Department of Justice.

"It seems like it is going in the right direction," said Wurzburg.