Fayette Mental Health Court

The Fayette Mental Health Court turns 2 November 24th. Though our growing pains continue as we learn the needs of our community, we have yet to turn away any eligible referral. We strive to increase and improve supports offered from within the NAMI family to fill the gaps in existing services, as we continue to “do the next right thing.” To date, over 70 referrals have come through the MHC. MHC has been able to work with 32 of these individuals, serving 24 of them still today. Keeping in mind—not all referrals are accepted based on the regulations of the court and some that are accepted decide against joining the program due to length or requirements, etc…not everyone is ready to get well or do the work required to get well. Similarly, some take the program to get out of jail or comply with probation only to decide and demonstrate that they are unwilling to participate in achieving their goals nor abide by program regulations, in which case the participant has opted to quit the program and on a few occasions, the court has had to discharge clients for major/repetitive rule violations and new offenses. At entry, we have seen 43% of participants homeless or in precarious/non-permanent housing situations…of those, all are served to enter safe, temporary housing or shelter immediately upon release from jail. Then, the team works to support them with finding transitional and permanent housing. At entry, we find 71% of participants are dually diagnosed, meaning they have a mental illness diagnosis as well as an issue with substance abuse. These participants are advised to address both needs simultaneously as is recommended as a best practice, engaging in therapy and medication management while attending Double Trouble in Recovery groups and various other community sobriety support groups. At entry, we find 66% of participants not engaged in treatment, services, or medication. This is a priority for the program and staff will assist participants with getting intake appointments as soon as possible, sometimes even prior to jail release or program acceptance. At entry, 69% were repeat offenders. While in the program, 37% re-offended with new charges—of those, 63% were asked to leave due to no longer being appropriate for the program or they opted to terminate participation. We have had 3 successful graduates, one of whom has returned to the program as a mentor, assisting with the creation of a support group for fellow participants who struggle with shoplifting/kleptomania/ impulse disorders, a service not currently offered in person in our community. The Mental Health Court diversifies more and more each week, welcoming new participants into what is often referred to as a “family,” where they volunteer to sign on to a personalized plan for recovery, rehabilitation, and resources that empowers them to move beyond their past, their illness, their addiction, and their circumstances to live the best crimefree life they choose.

Jennifer’s Story—The Next Right Thing My name is Jennifer and I am 37 years old. This is my personal experience with Mental Illness. I want you to imagine in your mind for a minute… if you one day you woke up and you had lost your house, your car, all of your money, your job, your friends, custody of your children, your personal relationships and everything you knew to be true. That is exactly what happened to me.

These were the words of Jennifer, a courageous and caring young lady in the Fayette Mental Health Court Program who shared these words at this years NAMIWalks in October. She went on to describe her difficult childhood and struggles dealing with Bipolar Disorder, Depression & Anxiety and her eventual addictive use of substance. She also explained what life was like dealing with a father that was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Her family encouraged her to distance herself from her father because they felt “he chooses to be the way he is.” Though even with her family’s lack of understanding, Jennifer always felt a “special connection to her father.” As many do, Jennifer sought relief from her illness by turning to the numbing effects of alcohol and eventually found herself arrested several times. Ironically, Jennifer credits her currently successful recovery efforts to the court ordered treatment she has received. Through Alcoholics Anonymous and Double Trouble in Recovery groups and her work in the Mental Health Court Program, Jennifer has regained hope for the future. She also has found a passion for helping others by sharing her story and experiences. “I don’t have to be perfect, all I have to do is the next right thing!”, she says. “What has been the most instrumental thing to turning my life around has been to take on responsibility and be accountable to others in my work and in my treatment program. She takes each day “one day at a time” and summarizes her recovery like this…

A series of bad choices made by my parents led to my existence, but a series of my own bad choices led me here today… I guess God really does have a plan. I now dream that one day I will own a home again and that my kids will want to come and live with me by their own choice, and not a a court order. But today I live just one day at a time, and doing the NEXT right thing!

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