Circuit Judge Michael C. Overstreet, presiding mental health court judge, reaches new milestone with diversion program; Therapeutic Justice Court sees its first five graduates
Therapeutic Justice Court (TJC) is a specialized mental health court program administrated within Bay County by the Honorable Michael C. Overstreet and the TJC staff members who come from various public entities. These entities came together to serve a vital need within their community in November 2015. The 12-18 month specialized court program is designed to assist individuals diagnosed with a Serious Persistent Mental Illnesses to successfully navigate the criminal justice system through individualized treatment, services, support and monitoring. Since its inception, there have been five successful graduates.
The first five successful graduates of TJC are individuals that would tell you that without the treatment and care received through TJC, they would have otherwise been lost or overlooked in the typical judicial system, with no chance of success. In addition to successfully completing the program, being diverted from incarceration, paying their fines, and having their cases closed, TJC has seen the following successes made while these participants were in the program:
- 4 out of 5 graduates were reunited with estranged family members; 2 of these were mothers that had lost or given up custody of their children;
- 3 out of 5 graduates entered TJC with previous addictions that were overcome through counseling, medications, and support;
- 4 out of 5 graduates went back to school with 3 completing previous degree pursuits; 2 completing their bachelor degrees;
- 2 out of 5 graduates gained steady employment;
- 4 out of 5 graduates entered TJC without a home and left TJC with stable housing arrangements or housing of their own;
- One graduate had been in a 30 year cycle of incarceration, homelessness, and mental illness; this cycle was put to an end as a direct result of being a TJC participant.
At the end of TJC, graduating participants are required to submit to the court a Transition Plan for how they are going to maintain their progress after they have left the program. They submit specific, detailed information on how they plan to continue their medications, counseling, sobriety, and maintain healthy self-care, housing, etc. Within these plans, the graduates also take the time to tell the court how the program has specifically influenced their life:
The Therapeutic Justice Court program has played a major role in helping me heal emotions, correct wrong belief systems, and to lend support to those of us with substance abuse issues. I am forever grateful for the investment that each and every player has made in order to help initiate change in virtual strangers. You have succeeded in helping me acquire the necessary tools to move forward. I want to thank you – one and all!” – M R.
“If you would have asked me 18 months ago where I would see myself today, it definitely wouldn’t be standing here with my whole support group and family behind me applauding me on my accomplishments, it would be more along the lines of dead or in prison. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I was given and each of you that have provided me with support along the way. ” – A. J
“For once in my life I can say that I finished something. I want to personally say thank you to Judge Overstreet and Mr. Pell for this opportunity that I was given that I didn’t deserve. You have helped me to change my life and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and for that I will forever be grateful. I promise you will never see me in this courthouse again unless I’m putting my degree to use. Me and my daughter thank you again. ” – A. J
“TJC is about the best thing that has happened in my life … I want to thank everyone from TJC. Thank you for believing in me, and showing me how to believe in myself. Thank you for caring if I made it or not. Thank you for allowing me to choose if I wanted to take responsibility for my own life, and supporting me as I worked through that process. Your choice, of choosing me to be a participant in Therapeutic Justice Court has impacted my life. ” – P. N
“I do not now, nor have I ever seen mental illness as a license for wrongdoing, but the mercy and grace in the image of God shown to me by members of TJC has shown me that being locked behind bars is not the only way to be held accountable for one’s actions. ” – B. F.
“I know that if I wasn’t involved with Therapeutic Justice Court, I would have never received the treatment I needed and I don’t know where I would be right now. The medications I am taking have made such a difference; I am now able to function in the community and be a contributing member of society as well as to have positive relationships with others, especially my children. I would say that being a part of this program and getting the help I needed has been life changing for me. And I want it to continue. ” – A. W