Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mental Health Court graduates nine tonight

A ceremony was held tonight at the McHenry County Government Center to recognize the nine persons who completed a program of the Mental Health Court and who were presented with their graduation certificates.

The graduation ceremony was presided over by Hon. Charles P. Weech, the presiding judge of the Mental Health Court. Court was called to order, and then Scott Block, Mental Health Court Coordinator, explained that this is a special court that conducts programs over 18-24 months that include community mental health treatment and intensive court supervision. The objective of the program is to help enrolled persons to avoid jail time for their offenses.

Judge Weech described tonight's ceremony as a celebration of those who have achieved their goals. He described the program as a unified, collaborative effort of the court, the sheriff's office and the mental health community.

McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi congratulated the graduates and told them that this graduation is the beginning of a future with a promise.

Scott Block said the program is under continual review and improvement. He recognized one member of the audience who is a graduate of last year's Court program and who is continuing to be involved as a mentor.

Cherryl Ramirez, Executive Director of the Association of Community Mental Health Authorities of Illinois, came from Champaign County to attend tonight's graduation ceremony and to visit our successful Mental Health Court. She is helping to establish a similar jail diversion program in Champaign County. She said there are 200 Mental Health Courts in the United States, including the nine in Illinois.

Judge Weech presented a graduation certificate to each graduate and also a special coin to each. Each coin contains this inscription, "Life is a journey, not a destination" and another inscription.

County Board Chairman Ken Koehler gave the closing remarks and read a letter from Illinois Senator Pamela Althoff, who could not attend this evening due to a scheduling conflict. Ken expressed the pride of the entire County in the graduates and in the program.

The program for tonight's graduation ceremony carried this message: "Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings."

Information about the McHenry County Mental Health Court can be viewed at www.mchenrycountyil.gov/departments/courtadmin/Pages/MHealthCourtHome.aspx

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