Wayne Co Mental Health Court helps those who don't belong in jail

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They committed a crime, but don't belong behind bars.

The program takes a holistic approach to mental health to keep people out of jail. FOX 2 was there for graduation day. 

It is a ceremony celebrating mental health - and the diplomas signify more than a degree. These graduates have been through the school of hard knocks.

"I graduated technically in January but I'm still going to my therapy and my classes every week," said one participant.

"If you take your medication properly you can live a productive life just like anybody else," said another man.

It is not just advice, but a plan for life - these people are all non-violent offenders who have been through the Western Wayne Regional Behavioral Treatment Court - presided over by Judge Laura Mack.

"These are people that have serious and persistent mental illness - most of them also have a substance use disorder and they end up in the criminal justice system," Mack said.

People like Cristel Cohen, who is an addict who suffers from schizophrenia and depression who is now clean - thanks to recovery court.

"It helps you to cope with daily living, it puts you back on track to living in society as a whole and accepting having some surrender for that old way of living for a new way of life," she said.

Judge Mack says the participants receive treatment for psychiatric or mental disorders, as well as treatment for substance abuse. They get help with housing and other needs.

"We basically try to determine what the underlying problem is and can fix that problem so that it's not a revolving door - so they don't continue coming into the criminal justice system because of their mental illness or substance use disorder," Mack said.

The court can only take about 50 people at a time - Judge Mack would like to expand the program.

"There's a lot of need a lot of people that suffer from severe mental illness in the criminal justice system that shouldn't really be there," Mack said.

Hence this program - that really is working. Mental Health Court graduates are less likely to re-offend - and less likely to be unemployed

Judge Mack says it's a cutting edge program - and Michigan is leading the way in treatment courts - a better, more cost-effective way of delivering criminal justice.

"I think problem solving is better approach to these kind of problems," Mack said. "Than just putting people in jail."