Forsyth County announced this week that it has been granted $400,000 by the United States Department of Justice to sponsor programs aimed at promoting mental health and reducing jail populations.
The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) grant is meant to increase the availability of mental health treatment in Forsyth County in an effort to reduce the number of people in jail, shorten jail sentences and lower the recidivism rate for local inmates with mental illnesses, according to a press release.
“Our jails have become at times a ‘holding shed’ for people with true mental health issues,” Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said in the release. “This grant, which was achieved through a collaborative effort over a number of years, will give us an opportunity to hopefully recognize the problem and start the treatment for the underlying problem properly so the reoccurrence will be reduced significantly in the future.”
Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman stated in the release that even though the grant is meant to help divert individuals with mental illness from prison, the sheriff’s office will not do that at the cost of endangering the community.
“While this grant can likely divert individuals with mental illness who have committed minor crimes and help those arrested to obtain services to avoid further arrests,” Freeman said, “it is equally important to note the Sheriff’s Office will not divert any criminal offense that endangers our community or results in any significant crime.”
The $400,000 grant will be matched by $100,000 in local funding, the release states, and use of the funding will be directed by a planning team of county leaders, stakeholders and decision-makers from both the Forsyth County Finance Department and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.