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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 29, 2007
Gail Gosney, Resource Development Specialist,  Thurston County Prosecuting  Attorney's Office, (360) 786-5540 x6252
Jon Tunheim, Chief Deputy, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, (360) 786-5540 x6291

Thurston County Receives Grant for Mental  Health Court

OLYMPIA -- The National Association of Counties (NACo) today announced the selection of five recipients for its Mental Health Diversion Grants Program to develop or expand local jail diversion programs. The Thurston County Prosecutor's Office is one of the grant recipients.  The grants will be used to help counties assist people suffering from mental illness who commit non-violent offenses as a result of their untreated mental illness.

Four counties and one state association of counties have been competitively awarded a $5,000 seed grant to develop or expand a program to divert non-violent offenders with mental health needs from jails to treatment services. Funding for this grant program is provided by Eli Lilly and Company.

Thurston County has been developing a crisis response to individuals with mental illness over the past couple of years that has included the establishment of a Mental Health Court . To ensure that the Mental Health Court is used effectively and the maximum numbers of non-violent, mentally ill individuals are diverted from jail, Thurston County will use NACo's funding to hold trainings for certain court personnel to help them better understand mental illness and the opportunities provided by the Mental Health Court .  Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim says the grant will help expand a program that has proven its value in Thurston County .  " Mental Health Court is an excellent program that helps us find the appropriate assistance for those who enter the criminal justice system as a result of their challenges.  This grant funding will allow us to make more Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys, Judicial Officers and defense attorneys aware of the program and what it has to offer."

NACo has called on the U.S. Attorney General to create a national commission to study and make recommendations to all levels of government on the jailing of non-violent offenders with mental illness in county jails.  

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3