Alternative Sentencing Court gives options for those with mental health needs

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- According to the Department of Corrections, approximately 22 percent of their daily population is considered to have serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI).

The Alternative Sentencing Court is a program that steps in to help offenders with mental health needs.

The ASC aims to provide those offenders who have mental health issues another way of receiving treatment and helping them avoid re-committing crimes.

The program is voluntary and those who are eligible are either entered as a diversion or as part of their probation, depending on the severity of their offense.

All candidates for the program must be assessed by Valeo Behavioral Healthcare or VA and the ASC.

Administrative Judge of the Topeka Municipal Court Lori Dougherty-Bichsel said the program helps improve access to services around the community.

"By serving our community through this mental health treatment we're reducing the amount of times they call 911,” Dougherty-Bichsel said. “We're keeping them out of the criminal justice system, we're providing them transitional housing. It's really being a good neighbor to our neighbors."

Dougherty-Bichsel also said that it costs about three times as much to care for someone with mental health in a jail rather than through the ASC.

The Council also voted to set August 7th as the date for a public hearing on the 2019 Operating Budget.