GREENE COUNTY, Mo. — A new program from the State Department of Mental Health is expected to address a potential backlog of mental health evaluations that are needed before people can stand trial. 

“It is different from what we’ve had in the past,” Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson said. “Roughly about half of those persons referred for evaluation are going to be competent, but we can’t proceed with the case until the judge finds that they’re competent. So hopefully it will speed that process.”

Part of that program includes jail-based mental health restoration, adding the Greene County Jail to a list that includes Clay, Jackson, St. Louis counties, and St. Louis City. 

Patterson says the new program is a change from the previous process. 

“Any time a judge or one of the attorneys on either side of the case has a reasonable cause to believe a person doesn’t understand the charges against them or can’t assist in their own defense, then what’s called a competency hearing or evaluation is ordered,” Patterson said. “There’s been a backlog for a number of years now at the Department of Mental Health in getting those evaluations done, so having this program could potentially really help in that regard.”

The State Department of Mental Health says jail-based restoration will have 10 beds in the Greene County Jail—another change from the previous process.  

“[Previously] they would be placed on a waitlist until there was space for them to go to the Department of Health,” Patterson said. “Some of these evaluations were done outside of the Department of Health and the jail, but then in terms of restoration, they would have to get a bed within the Department of Mental Health for that process to take place.”

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office was contacted for comment on this story but did not respond at this time.