AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - A local judge says although there's a long way to go, some inmates in Potter County are getting the help they need.
Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner started a mental health court program for those with mental issues currently or previously behind bars. And after nearly reaching its year anniversary, officials remain optimistic.
Tanner worked for the court system for twenty years before becoming a judge, giving her plenty of time to see the people who came in and out.
"I saw a problem with the mental health issues, in that it was the same people being put in and out, in and out, in and out, and never getting any help while they were out," says Tanner. "And then they'd get in trouble and go to jail and they were making our numbers in the jail go up and up and up."
That's when Tanner decided to create a mental health court.
After a screening process, the six-month program helps those with mental health issues get out of jail and have a support system to stay on track.
"You have to be willing to see a doctor, take your medicine, see a counselor every week or two and try to find a place to live and a job," says Tanner.
Tanner has seen 48 defendants try to apply for the position, although not all have made it to graduation. Participants are closely monitored throughout the process, so when a rule is broken, they can be kicked out.
Just 2 made it to the graduation earlier this month, but Tanner is not letting that get in the way.
"They were so happy, and so proud of themselves for going through this program," says Tanner. "It makes my heart so good that we just helped two people this time, but we're going to not stop and just keep going."
Something Tanner does want to see changed is the amount of people she is able to help, as currently only those with misdemeanors are eligible. She is working with the DA to add to that pool with low-end felonies.
"We've got to figure out something and somehow to get them out and keep them out and get them the help that they need in the mean time. And that's what I'm working towards."
Tanner says her ultimate goal is to build a small metal health facility.