County commissioners on Monday took the first step toward creating a mental health court by appointing a magistrate judge to oversee it.
Commissioners unanimously appointed Judge Wayne Mallia to preside over the court. Among his first tasks will be developing a plan for creating the court and an estimate about how much it will cost.
County officials have talked for years about creating a mental health speciality court that would divert people suffering from mental illness into programs and therapy, instead of a jail cell.
The program hasn't been created because of a lack of money and leadership, County Judge Mark Henry said. Mallia volunteered last week to lead the project, Henry said.
Monday's vote did not commit any money to the court, Henry said.
Mallia will need to agree to a contract with the county outlining his pay before beginning his work, Henry said.
Mallia was the judge of Galveston's 405th District Court from 2000 until 2013. Since leaving that position, he has worked as a visiting judge.
Last month, he was designated as a magistrate judge, allowing him to work for the county to do such things as setting bail and other administrative duties.