HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — In Hays County, fewer people could be headed to jail and instead get mental health services.

That’s because after three years, the county’s mental health court is up and running after finally getting state approval.

It’s a specialty court that’s an alternative to jail for situations where mental health problems played a role in an arrest.

The court started to take cases in large part to its caseworker and administrator positions being filled. One of them was by Kaimi Mattila, the court’s administrator.

“Its specific for people with mental health, substance abuse and intellectual disabilities,” Mattila said.

Hays County Judge Dan O’Brien is presiding over this court. He said it’s an opportunity to help reduce the jail population.

“Make sure people are on the right path to completing a 12 to 15 month program so then they can exit the justice system,” Judge O’Brien said.

He said the pandemic delayed the court starting, but now three years after commissioner’s approved the resolution for it, he said it’s ready to go.

It’s a milestone Mattila is honored to be a part of.

“I just feel very grateful for the opportunity to do this. And to be able to be at the table with all of these people that are making this happen,” Mattila said.

Two people are already making their way through the court. There are about 10 with referrals. The mental health caseworker hired during a Sept. 20 commissioners court meeting will start October 11.

During the meeting, Judge O’Brien said the caseworker has over nine years of experience working in the social work field as a direct service provider and program manager for multiple programs.