- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WINFIELD, W.Va. (AP) - A judge in Putnam County has proposed a program to help offenders with mental health issues stay out of jail.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/1tqWzFg ) reports that Putnam Circuit Judge Phillip Stowers proposed the pretrial treatment diversion program at the Putnam County Commission meeting Tuesday.

The program would help offenders by deferring them from jail to mental health facilities or other programs. A panel would report to a mental health court at the end of the week and recommend which offenders should be deferred to mental health facilities. Community counseling manager Kevin White would lead the panel of mental health professionals.

Stowers said most offenders with treatable mental health issues are currently awaiting trial and cannot make bail to get out of jail.

“These are low-level nonviolent offenders that are being held in jail, and most of them have mental health issues,” Stowers said.

County commissioners expressed enthusiasm for the plan.

“It sounds terrific. It’s very proactive, which I think is something we need to be doing,” Commissioner Joe Haynes said.

The county has received a $115,000 grant to implement the program. Stowers requested that $55,000 be used to pay for White’s salary.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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