By JON GASKELL
Capital News Service
LANSING – Officials are looking to expand a pilot program that has kept hundreds of mentally ill defendants from going to prison. In his address on public safety, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed $2.1 million in new funding for mental health courts, a pilot program operating since 2008 that allows defendants to avoid jail time by completing court-monitored treatment. Snyder also proposed starting a new mental health court in Saginaw County, bringing the total number to nine. The program is currently funded by $1.6 million in federal stimulus money, which will no longer be available by the end of the year. “Mental health courts are the best resource available to provide treatment to mentally ill individuals who break the law,” Snyder said.