Horry County's mental health court seeks treatment over incarceration

Horry County's mental health court seeks treatment over incarceration

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - In today's world there's a good chance you have ties with or know of someone who has struggled with drug addiction.  Wednesday, August 31st, is International Overdose Awareness Day.  A day to recognize those who struggle with the disease, those who have overcome it and the families affected by it. Many times, drug use is related to mental illness.

In Horry County, there's a court choosing treatment over incarceration. The court serves as an alternative route for people who have committed serious crimes, but who also have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. It's Mental Health Court and was created in June 2015.

Mental health court is run by a collaborative team of two judges, Waccamaw Mental Health, the solicitor's office and law enforcement.

Horry County Magistrate Associate Chief Judge Aaron Butler oversees the program.  He said the participants are chosen by the solicitor's office based on their work and criminal history, as well as their attitude towards receiving help.

"So they have to be at a point to be stable enough for us to provide a service for them. If there's no stability, then they can't maintain any type of stability in society or a job," Judge Butler said.

He added many of the participants may also suffer from drug addiction. All participants must pass frequent drug tests to remain in the program.

The people chosen must want the help and abide by strict rules. The program is not a 'get out of jail free' card. If the Mental Health Court finds they are not meeting the conditions agreed upon to be in the program, that individual will be sent to jail to serve the original sentence given.

Below are the requirements to be in Mental Health Court provided by the solicitor's office.