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New position at sheriff’s dept.

The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners has approved a new position at the sheriff’s department, where a diversion program is expected to better meet the needs of people requiring mental-health service evaluations.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved the position of director of assessment. The specialist’s salary will come out of a $350,000 grant administered by the state to the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services of St. Joseph County.

Sheriff Brad Balk said the grant will fund a pilot program considered a model for the state. It involves constructing two holding cells designated for law-breakers whose crimes may be attributed to mental-health issues. He said $150,000 of the grant will cover the costs associated with construction of the new holding cells.

The specially designated cells will provide the CMH director of assessment an opportunity to conduct evaluations on site or via satellite connection.

Marquette and Wayne counties also are included in the pilot program.

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