South Florida judge speaks to Okaloosa County commissioner about mental health program

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OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A south Florida judge visited our area Tuesday to speak about a mental health diversion program.

Judge Steven Leifman, from Dade County, spoke with Okaloosa County Commissioners about his fight to open a mental health diversion program, which treated the mentally ill who had been charged with minor violations of the law. Judge Leifman said after the program began, the number of mentally ill housed in jails was greatly reduced.

Okaloosa County officials say there is an overcrowding problem in its jail. Officials say the jail was built to house 594 inmates, but currently there are more than 730.

“I'm very encouraged that I am hearing consensus among all of the commissioners, the Mental Health Association and the Okaloosa bar," Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel said. "What we need is a summit to address the needs of the mentally ill, which we are finding out is more than 50 percent of the jail's population."

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