Since being admitted 14 months ago to the state's first mental health court, Floyd has re-established a relationship with his daughter, tended to his 84-year-old mother, buried his brother, and continued to live with his wife. If it were not for the program, Floyd would have spent the past year in jail or prison, says the Bangor Daily News. Last week, Floyd became one of the first graduates of what is officially known as the co-occurring disorders court. He beamed with pride as Maine Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills, who heads the specialty court, handed him a graduation certificate and an oversized key engraved with the date and his name.
The court opened last year with a judge, prosecutor, case manager, crisis counselor, and others volunteering their time. Last September, it was awarded a $450,000 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Instead of sentencing a defendant to jail or prison time, the judge sentences an offender to the court's supervision for one to two years in exchange for a guilty plea. The defendant agrees to undergo a rigorous treatment schedule and appear once a week before the judge. “Mental illness and substance abuse are diseases, just like cancer and diabetes,” the judge said. “People who suffer from them need help, understanding, resources, treatment and, in some cases, medicine. If they have those things, there's a good chance they'll recover.” A key to the program, she said, is intensive case management and an ability to contact someone 24 hours a day. The co-occurring disorders court offers participants that and connects them with services from counseling to medication management to housing.