Alabama agrees to speedier mental health evaluations in jails

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( — A federal judge has approved an agreement requiring Alabama to provide faster and expanded treatment for people waiting in jail for court-ordered mental health evaluations or treatment to restore competency.

The Department of Mental Health says it has already taken steps to make the improvements.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on Thursday approved a consent decree between the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and people it represents and Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear.

The consent decree is intended to resolve a lawsuit filed in 2016. The plaintiffs, represented by ADAP, claimed that the state failed to follow the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment because people were forced to wait up to nine months for evaluation and treatment after orders by a judge.

The state and plaintiffs mediated and came to an agreement last year. The 34-page consent decree approved by Thompson on Thursday spells out the terms of the agreement. (See below).

It says that within 24 months, the state will provide court-ordered mental health evaluation or treatment within 30 days. It also says the state will add 100 forensic hospital and community beds to help ensure the faster treatments and evaluations.

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