Program Manager Hired for Benton County Health Court - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Program Manager Hired for Benton County Health Court

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For now, the next steps are to get staff hired, budgets ready and get the "go ahead" from judges. For now, the next steps are to get staff hired, budgets ready and get the "go ahead" from judges.

BENTON COUNTY, WA- Concerns over mental health in court systems has made national and even local headlines for some time now.

Over a year ago, elected Benton County officials took steps forward with the court system to make some changes. Just this week there has been progress in making mental health court a reality.

Last August voters passed a public safety tax that contributed to a lot of improvements, including the creation of a mental health court. Commissioner Shon Small told NBC Right Now the amount of support is what has made their progress successful. 

On Tuesday, a new court program manager was established. Jacki Lahtinen, who works in the Benton County District court says, "the help that they need, housing if they need, and counseling" are some of the differences in mental health courts. She says the purpose is to, "Get them back on track, so they get this case ultimately dismissed."

"This isn't an easy process, because one thing we have to do is that everybody involved has to have the same shared vision, the same goal. If we are able to achieve that, then it is going to be a very successful mission and I am looking forward to that," said Small.

Over this year, the team has met with prosecutors and defense attorneys to work out details. They also visited Spokane's mental health court to get a better idea of how things should operate. This program will collaborate with the new mental health wing at the Benton County Jail.

For now, the next steps are to get staff hired, budgets ready and get the "go ahead" from judges.

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