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Fayette County mental health court continues to grow

District Judge John Tackett
Stu Johnson
District Judge John Tackett

The Fayette County Mental Health Court continues to see participation grow. The program, which focuses on addressing mental illness issues and keeping those individuals out of jail, has been operating for 14 years. It receives funding support from Urban County Government. The annual update was this week. Kelly Gunning with NAMI Lexington said peer support is a major factor.

“The secret sauce is in using people who have walked the walk, paid the price, and come out better on the other end and are blessed for it and want to share the good news with everybody coming up behind them,” said Gunning.

Mental Health Court Clinical Director Connie Milligan told Council committee members 90% of participants have experienced severe trauma along with, in many cases, addiction issues. The City’s funding support is $340,000. Milligan noted the 15 graduates represent saving almost 22,000 days of incarceration. And she added that cost savings comes to $2.5 million.

Fayette District Judge John Tackett started by saying he’s sorry for the judiciary and criminal justice system doing, quote, “a terrible job in addressing the needs of folks with serious mental illness.”

 “You get better results if you treat these people with serious mental illness as having a health problem versus having a criminal problem,” said Tackett.

 Tackett said that’s the case for the vast majority while not overlooking the fact that violent crimes do occur sometimes. The district judge holds out high expectations for the current Kentucky Supreme Court-initiated commission examining mental illness and the judicial process. He invited Council members to tune in virtually or come in person to mental health court sessions on Wednesdays.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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