YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As the latest graduates of Mahoning County’s Felony Mental Health Court received their certificates Thursday afternoon, those in charge of the program were recently recognized as well.
Court officials showed off the documents they received a couple weeks ago, making the Mahoning County Mental Health Court the first in the state to be certified by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Since it was established in 2005, the Mental Health Court has graduated about two dozen people who have completed the two-year program.
“Instead of having a felony on their record, it is gone. The record is sealed and they actually become productive members of society again. They’re stable on their meds, they’re working or they’re going to school, and they’re contributing to society instead of being a burden on it,” Mahoning County Mental Health Court Judge Maureen Sweeney said.
The guest speaker Thursday afternoon was author Joyce Thomas of the Findley area, who struggled with her own mental health problems. She handed both graduates an orange wrist band, symbolizing the plight of those with mental illness who get caught up in the legal system.
The judge said the process to certify the court took months to complete and is meant to standardize the various programs now in use around the state.