BILLINGS, Mont. — The state is implementing a program aimed at reducing the social and economic stresses that can lead people to commit crimes.

A social worker has been added to the public defender’s office in Missoula with the goal of directing clients charged with low-level theft to available community services. The idea is that once the clients receive mental health evaluations, chemical dependency or other medical treatment or assistance with housing they will be less likely to shoplift.

The Billings Gazette reports a similar pilot project in Bozeman will focus on child abuse and neglect cases. Billings and Kalispell will also start pilot projects next month as part of a package of criminal justice reform legislation.

Great Falls recently received a new social worker to aid with child abuse and neglect cases.

Information from: The Billings Gazette,