HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The city of Hattiesburg announced it’s receiving more than $300,000 in grant money to help decrease the recidivism rate. WDAM takes a look at the specifics of what Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker is calling the first of a hopeful, five-year grant.
“Our state is really lacking in the funding to help people with their mental health needs and particularly when it’s related to drug and alcohol use," Councilwoman Mary Dryden said. "When you have those things going together, it makes treatment more complicated.”
An advocate for making Hattiesburg a safer place, Dryden stands behind the new $385,000 grant that will go towards the Hattiesburg’s Municipal Court, expanding its Behavioral Health Court system.
Barker said this is an exciting move that will take the program to the next level.
“We have a municipal court that is constantly looking for ways to raise it’s game and to be more forward thinking to use research and evidence to have better decision making and programming for our folks," Barker said. "When we empower people to make better decisions, it creates a safer community.”
With partners including Pine Belt Mental Health, Barker said the grant money will go toward decreasing the recidivism rate of misdemeanor offenders with serious mental illnesses and substance abuse problems. These individuals will have access to treatment, support and help.
“Our population will be about 60% female. It will be mostly low socioeconomic status, which means 75% of these folks are typically unemployed and about half of them are homeless," Barker said. "There will be a very evidence-based course of treatment for these co-occurring disorders.”
“It means we can enlarge the good things that we are doing that are effective, working well and helping people make different changes in their lives that need to be made,” Dryden said.
The program averages about 26 people every month.
Hattiesburg established the state’s only behavioral health court program back in 2008. Currently, it remains the only program in the state.