Two blogs, one week. As I’m flying through attempting to catch up on things, I see next week brings the Mental Health Court Advisory Committee. It is such a remarkable privilege to sit on this committee. And, if you don’t know about this specialty court, you should. I have observed Mental Health Court and have never witnessed such compassion, caring, deep listening, recognition and reward for people working hard to resolve their criminal issues along with trying to stay housed, on medication often, clean and sober, and/or maintain employment. I took a friend once to observe. She was curious and said she’d stay an hour. We went right after sharing some yummy lunch and then sat by one another blown away by the compassion, the grave realities and frailties of life, and the genuine care and concern for people and community. By the way, she still has lunch with me!
Mental Health Court began here almost in 2015 by Judge Lisa Greif. While I can’t speak for Judge Greif, from a community perspective, the Mental Health Court started almost informally because of the case load. And the Court functions as a team – a Judge, a therapist, a probation officer, case managers and more. It’s impressive.
Since the court was formalized in 2015, there have been 48 participants, all with severe/persistent mental illnesses (bipolar, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder) and nearly all of the participants had co-occurring substance abuse disorders. This is profound work and definitely not easy. Of the 48 participants since the beginning, 19 have graduated and 11 are still in the program. Of the remaining folks, 15 had to be terminated because it’s still court and there are real requirements to complete Mental Health Court successfully. Terminations sometimes come from refusing to make progress, continuing to use substances, and, there are some diagnoses that research shows specialty courts don’t work for. What happens when someone terminates out of Mental Health Court – they go back into the regular court system.
Of the 19 graduates, here’s some frame of reference. Total arrests for the 19 people prior to entering Mental Health Court were 325! One participant had 114 arrests and had zero for one year following graduation! There have only been 4 arrests one year after graduating. These are profound results.
As of last quarter, we had 11 participants. There were 8 males and 3 females; they range in age from 24 to 67; all 11 are housed; and, all have felony charges.
We have seen the great work of Adult Drug Court, Family Court, Recovery Opportunity Court and Mental Health Court. And while all of our systems are somewhat overwhelmed, we do see remarkable results in our specialty courts.
At our task force, the Judge shares an update on participants, connecting resources happens across agencies and there are no silos in the room. People are in the room to help make a difference in protecting people who need help and protecting our community. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve.
Hope you’re volunteering somewhere. If you need help figuring out where, let me know! Onward