Mental Health Community Court Anniversary – Doreen Gentzler’s report

Watch Doreen Gentzler's Report on the Mental Health Community Court Ceremony:

It's no secret that the D.C. Courts are committed to serving the public with excellence, respect, and fairness. People travel from around the world to the DC Courts to learn about our successful initiatives and forward-thinking programs. One success we are particularly proud of is Mental Health Community Court, a program that gives people the opportunity to receive the help they need for their mental health challenges while holding them accountable to the community.

The MHCC program started in 2007 as a one-year pilot program as a collaboration between the DC Superior Court, the DC Pretrial Service Agency (PSA), United States Attorney’s Office, defense bar, DC Public Defender Service, and the DC Department of Behavioral Health. In 2010, the program was expanded to include non-violent felony charges. Most recently, in September 2017, DCSC and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) developed a program for felony probationers who are at risk for future violations related to their mental health challenges.

D.C. Courts employees and their community partners gathered together Friday, September 29 to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the program. Mistress of Ceremonies Doreen Gentzler from NBC4 opened the program, sharing her desire to bring awareness to the topic of mental health in our community. "You all at the courts are way ahead of us in addressing this topic of mental health," she stated. She went on to speak of the significance of the impact of mental health on the lives of all of us.

Mental Health Community Court Coordinator, Cleonia Terry expressed her gratitude to all the stakeholders, citing that 1,868 Mental Health Community Court graduates wouldn't have been able to accomplish all they had without the partner agencies. The new U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, gave remarks sharing that, as a former Assistant US Attorney, she knew firsthand how hard the Courts and community partners work to ensure the safety and well-being of D.C. residents. "We know as prosecutors in Mental Health Community Court that the best outcome is when participants graduate. I am so pleased to be able to celebrate with you all today."

Also in attendance were Pretrial Services Director, Leslie Cooper; Department of Behavioral Health Director Dr. Tanya Royster; and CSOSA Director, Nancy Ware. "We are really excited about the future of this program, making sure that we look at this population and truly see them, help them and be a beacon of hope for them," said Ms. Ware.

At the close of the program, Mental Health Community Court graduate, Susan Carroll shared the moving story of her journey to mental health and stability. "I needed someone to have faith in me and that's what the Court did. I'm now able to live and not just exist. Freedom isn't free but it's worth everything."