Huntsville Mental Health Court changing lives, saving money

Judge Cleveland told WAAY 31 that state mental health budget cuts lead to an overflow of people who are in jail and need mental health treatment.

Posted: Mar 6, 2019 6:47 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2019 6:54 PM

Mikki Miller has epilepsy and says recurring seizures made it difficult for her to keep a job. This led to depression and anxiety, and she began to self-medicate with illegal drugs.

"I had gotten arrested for stealing some food, and I got off with probation and a fine, but the deadline is approaching, and I don't have the money to pay the fine," said Miller

Miller's life was spiraling out of control. However, instead of sending her to jail for not paying her fine, the judge referred Miller to Judge Sybil Cleveland's Mental Health Court.

"I came on the bench in 1999. It was apparent then that there were a growing number of people who were coming into the criminal justice system with mental health conditions. Serious mental health conditions," said Cleveland.

Cleveland's court works in collaboration with mental health and substance treatment providers to help people who get caught up in the criminal system, when the root of the problem can be traced to their lack of access to mental health treatment.

"These people really didn't have an option of state and in-patient facilities. So, typically what we see are people who traditionally may have been committed into mental institutions. Some have mental health conditions, but the resources just aren't there," said Judge Cleveland.

Judge Cleveland told WAAY 31 that state mental health budget cuts lead to an overflow of people who are in jail and need mental health treatment.

An organization called The Sentencing Project ranked states based on the number of people in prison per 100,000 residents, comparing state-by-state rates of incarceration with the access to mental health care. The ranking shows a strong correlation between rates of adults who are in the criminal justice system and lack of access to mental health care.

The states with less access to mental health care have more adults who are in prison. Six out of 10 of the states with the least access to mental health care also have the highest rates of incarceration.

These states include:

* Alabama
* Arkansas
* Mississippi
* Texas
* Georgia
* Florida

Miller completed Cleveland's program through the Mental Health Court. After therapy appointments as part of the program, getting on the proper medication to treat her epilepsy and passing drug testing, Miller graduated from the Mental Health Court program. She says her life is now on a good track.

"I'm staying busy, which is a good thing. I'm pretty much either at work or at church. That's okay with me. It's good for me. I'm doing really well. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I'm just grateful to Judge Cleveland for where I am today," said Miller.

Upon Miller's successful completion of the mental court program, her case was dismissed.

Cleveland said the Mental Health Court Program is also designed to save taxpayer money by diverting inmates with serious mental health conditions from jail into community-based mental health treatment programs and reducing the overall inmate population.

Currently, housing inmates in the Madison County Jail costs taxpayers $45 to $50 per day.

Huntsville/Redstone
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
Muscle Shoals
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 50°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 42°
Decatur
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 51°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 498076

Reported Deaths: 10094
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson716711387
Mobile36294737
Madison32616468
Tuscaloosa24340421
Montgomery22739519
Shelby22174218
Baldwin19873289
Lee15039157
Calhoun13832293
Morgan13753254
Etowah13390325
Marshall11448211
Houston10124264
Elmore9483190
Limestone9420138
St. Clair9022227
Cullman8984182
Lauderdale8612214
DeKalb8489175
Talladega7606165
Walker6585259
Jackson6545104
Autauga632492
Blount6236127
Colbert6001121
Coffee5264103
Dale4671107
Russell406933
Franklin399878
Covington3993106
Chilton3898103
Escambia379173
Tallapoosa3622143
Clarke344053
Chambers3431111
Dallas3422142
Pike293373
Marion288695
Lawrence284985
Winston258368
Bibb246160
Geneva240370
Marengo238857
Pickens225457
Barbour213651
Hale212269
Fayette202057
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178039
Monroe166739
Randolph164840
Washington156836
Macon147745
Crenshaw146255
Clay145954
Cleburne139841
Lamar133733
Lowndes132751
Wilcox122925
Bullock117336
Conecuh107024
Perry106127
Sumter99732
Coosa90224
Greene88532
Choctaw55323
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 779449

Reported Deaths: 11501
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby876181509
Davidson81809871
Knox46250587
Hamilton40539463
Rutherford38563386
Williamson25382204
Sumner21448318
Montgomery17484213
Out of TN1706694
Wilson16510211
Unassigned15772127
Sullivan14431274
Blount14141183
Bradley12996141
Washington12818234
Maury12246163
Sevier12109164
Putnam10635170
Madison10123230
Robertson8997121
Hamblen8063165
Anderson8044158
Greene7309145
Tipton6962103
Coffee6418115
Dickson6256106
Gibson6196141
Cumberland6127122
Carter5990155
McMinn594592
Roane592696
Bedford5816120
Loudon571966
Jefferson5688119
Lawrence557483
Monroe536590
Warren532576
Hawkins527195
Dyer5242101
Franklin475785
Fayette468372
Obion436995
Lincoln415662
Rhea415273
Cocke401295
Cheatham394544
Marshall391956
Campbell381859
Weakley379359
Giles375297
Henderson362273
Carroll349181
White339366
Hardeman338864
Macon337273
Hardin331563
Lauderdale309642
Henry301275
Marion294744
Scott288144
Wayne287630
Overton285557
Claiborne283069
McNairy268353
Hickman266541
DeKalb266151
Haywood264960
Smith256936
Grainger244246
Trousdale239822
Morgan230338
Fentress229544
Johnson217138
Chester202348
Bledsoe201010
Crockett197547
Unicoi181447
Polk177722
Cannon176730
Union173033
Grundy169730
Lake167926
Sequatchie157327
Humphreys154921
Decatur153837
Benton151039
Lewis147425
Meigs126722
Jackson125634
Stewart124025
Clay107130
Houston103632
Perry103527
Moore94516
Van Buren79720
Pickett74623
Hancock49712

Community Events