McDonald County Courthouse reports an increase in mental health cases

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One Southwest Missouri county is noticing an increase in mental health court cases.

“It was very surprising because we didn’t get a lot of them for a lot of years, and then we started getting more,” explained McDonald County Circuit Clerk Tanya Lewis.

Lewis has been involved with the McDonald County Courthouse for more than 25 years. In the beginning of her career, she noticed a large number of cases involving bad checks…While today, they seem to center around mental health.

“Mental health is something we rarely got when I first started — we would get 1 or 2 a year, now we get 1 or 2 a week,” Lewis added.

The increase in cases has been seen over the last five years. Last year, the total amount of cases were 115 and as of today it’s already 82.

“As economy fluxes, as social norms flux, I think that we see changes in those kind of cases,” explained McDonald County Prosecutor Bill Dobbs.

McDonald County officials categorize a mental health case to be anyone who is a danger to themselves or others. County leaders believe it can be hard for one living in McDonald County to find the right resources to prevent a mental health court case from happening.

“When we get a mental health case, the person lives here and then we have to transfer to Newton County because that’s where the facility is,” said Lewis.

“Often time those folks have to rely on family members or friends or the community to assist them to travel to, say Joplin, to have assessments to go to counseling and to do those things, so it is more difficult when you’re down here,” explained Dobbs.

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