AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with the Potter County Courts system announced Friday that the Panhandle Regional Problem Solving Court out of Court at Law No. 2 has officially been approved by the Texas Office of Court Administration.

According to a news release from the 47th District Attorney’s Office, the official approval for the courts gives officials with the Panhandle Regional Problem Solving Court the ability to apply for grants, expand the number of participants and make the entry process easier for those who want to participate. Judge Matthew Hand, the presiding judge of Potter County Court at Law No. 2, and the other officials with the court helped design a policy and procedures manual, as well as develop the program’s parameters and goals.

The Panhandle Regional Problem Solving Court joins the county’s two other recognized specialty courts, including the Potter/Randall County Drug Court and the Panhandle Regional Veterans Treatment Court. Officials said that the goal of these courts is to “address each individual’s needs to try and reduce future criminal behavior and to provide treatment rather than incarceration.”

This program first began six years ago through the 47th District Attorney’s office, with an approximate 70% graduation rate, the release said. The Potter County Commissioners’ Court passed a resolution to start the process of it becoming a recognized specialty court in 2021.

The problem-solving court focuses on those with felony and misdemeanor criminal cases who have a mental health diagnosis for which treatment will be more effective than incarceration, the release said. The court will be in partnership with various groups, including the Potter/Randall County Probation Department, Texas Panhandle Centers, the Potter County Sheriff’s Office as well as other local mental health treatment providers in our area.

“I am looking forward to serving Potter County in this new and important court,” Hand said in the release. “The creation of the court is a win for the taxpayers, the participant, the detention center and the legal system. I thank Judge Nancy Tanner and the Potter County Commissioners for their support.”

Officials state that expansion of the program is “on the horizon,” hoping to include other jurisdictions and counties in the future.