YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Greg said he never thought he would like a judge, let alone shake hands with one.
But that is exactly what happened Thursday in the courtroom of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney after he graduated from the Mahoning County Common Pleas Felony Mental Health Court.
“She saved my life, literally,” Greg said.
Thursday was a day he will never forget. So is July 14, 2011, which is the day he woke up in a hospital handcuffed.
“I knew then that something had to be done. My life was unmanageable and out of control,” Greg said.
The first step was admitting he had a problem with alcohol. He was placed in a felony mental health court in Mahoning County and into a rehab and support program called CARES.
“They plead into the program. It’s a two-year program. The first six months they come to court once a week. They also see a case manager at Turning Point,” said Wendy Laurenzi, CARES program coordinator.
Greg admits there were days he had his doubts.
“Judge Sweeney and the people in mental health court all believed in me and just wouldn’t give up on me,” Greg said.
On Thursday, Greg and four women graduated the CARES program. Their successful completion of the program means their criminal charges have been dismissed.
The program started eight years ago and was the first mental health felony court in Ohio.
“We have only actually had one re-offender out of 30 people, so we’re actually making a difference in the community,” Sweeney said.
“Too many people are falling through the cracks that have mental health issues and really don’t belong in jail. If their mental health is treated, then they’re not going back to jail. It’s better for the person, better for the community,” Laurenzi said.
Greg has been sober for 13 months and is sharing his story in hopes of helping someone else.
“If you have an addiction, reach out because there are people out there who really care about you,” Greg said.