KeepHealthCare.ORG – Mental Health Recovery Court hosts its first graduation ceremony – News – Monroe News – Monroe, Michigan
“It was the best thing for me to do,” said Patricia Evans, one of the graduates from Monroe County Mental Health Recovery Court. Hundreds of people have applied to participate in the program.
Two participants in the county’s mental health criminal diversion program made history by being the first to graduate Wednesday.
The Monroe County Mental Health Recovery Court graduates were recognized at a ceremony in 38th Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Weipert’s courtroom. It celebrated Patricia L. Evans of Monroe and another graduate who wished to remain anonymous. Both were presented with a framed certificate of achievement by First District Judge Jack Vitale who presides over the recovery court.
“I haven’t been this happy in 20 years,” said Evans, 42. “I’m really happy with the program. It was the best thing for me to do.”
Mental Health Recovery Court is designed to reduce criminal activity and enhance quality of life among those with a serious mental illness. It’s aimed at those who have committed a crime but do not display criminal intent.
“It’s an exciting time for Mental Health Recovery Court and for Monroe County,” said ceremony keynote speaker Patrick C. Bowler, a retired judge from Grand Rapids and state judicial outreach liaison. “Don’t forget the great efforts you have all made and will continue to make.”
In order to graduate, Mental Health Recovery Court participants must complete 12-18 months in the program and demonstrate consistent sobriety, Vitale said during the ceremony. Participants also are required to attend two court appointments per month, take part in community work and attend monthly mental health appointments. They should be actively searching for work.
“These people are not taking the easy way out,” Vitale said during the ceremony. “It requires a major time commitment to the program.”
Evans participated for almost 15 months, after being accepted to the program in March of last year. Vitale said throughout that time, she remained sober, attained independent housing, improved family relationships and clocked in more than 100 community service hours. She often volunteered with the Oaks of Righteousness shelter in Monroe.
“The program helped me realize that others also have a hard time staying sober,” Evans said. “The court is a really good support system for people with mental illness.”
Evans, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders, said the best part of the program was working with mental health professionals who found medication to help her best treat her illnesses. Prior to recovery court, she said she had several issues with past medications.
She is now working toward employment and said she hopes to begin working as soon as possible.
Mental Health Recovery Court first launched in October 2016. Monroe County is one of 11 counties to help those with mental illness through community treatment, jail diversion and recovery court.
Hundreds of candidates have since applied to participate in the program, Vitale said, but not all have been accepted. Those who are denied are connected with other mental health services.
About 20 participants are currently active in the program and are expected to graduate in upcoming months.