Benton County Mental Health Court receives $5,500 donation - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Benton County Mental Health Court receives $5,500 donation

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TRI-CITIES, WA - The Benton County Mental Health Court received a substantial donation from a local mental health organization in the memory of a former local. 

Reporter Rex Carlin learned that the National Alliance of Mental Illness Tri-Cities is donating $5,500 in the name of Norm Miller, father of Benton County prosecutor Andy Miller.

After Miller's death in 2012, donations were made in lieu of flowers to NAMI, and the decision was made to donate the funds to the mental health court.

The court was established in 2016 with the intent of ending the cycle of behavior caused in part by mental illness that causes low-level offenders to repeat their behavior.

The program takes people on a case-by-case basis, but non-violent misdemeanors are generally the types of crimes that could land somebody with mental illness in mental health court.

NAMI staff members say this isn't about excusing people for their crimes, but to actually rehabilitate them so they don't commit those crimes again.

"To fulfill their obligations to the community for whatever transgressions occurred," said NAMI Tri-Cities President, Fred Yapuncich, "but in a setting that enhances their ability to move on with their life instead of the repeat or revolving door one sees so many with mental illness or the criminal system."

The mental health court takes 37 cases at a time, and right now there are people on a wait list hoping to get into the program...but as of now there simply aren't enough resources to accept more than those 37 spaces.

The first four graduates of the Benton County Mental Health Court will graduate on May 24th, just more than a year after the program was introduced.