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Outagamie Co. Mental Health Court reaches milestone

The court court saw its first graduate on Friday.

OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) - A Fox Valley program aimed at aiding those suffering from mental illness is seeing success.

 

"I had been released from prison and I had no family support," Evelyn said.

 

It was a time when she needed help the most. Suffering from alcoholism and mental illness, Evelyn was offered a life-saving opportunity.

 

"They gave me resources that were available to me that I would not have known about," she said.

 

Evelyn is the first graduate of Outagamie County's Mental Health Court. Started just over a year ago, the court works to rehabilitate those convicted of non-violent crimes who also suffer from mental illness.

 

"This has been the most rewarding work that I have done in 25 years on the bench," Judge Dee Dyer commented.

 

The court currently has 13 participants who work with Judge Dyer on a weekly basis. The criteria for remaining in the court includes taking all prescribed medications, attending counseling sessions and staying sober.

 

Paid for with a federal grant, leaders said the court also cuts costs across the county.

 

"This, I think, beginning here in 2013 and going forward," explained Outagamie Co. Executive Tom Nelson, "has incredible potential to not just do good works in the community, but save a lot of money for the taxpayers."

 

Because of court, Evelyn said she now has a job, a place to live and a new lease on life.

 

"She has accomplished so much for herself and it's just been awesome to see," said Mental Health Court Coordinator Kate Kirchner.

 

"At the beginning of all this, I didn't care if I lived or died at that point," added Evelyn. "I didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now I know I have a bright future."

Program leaders said they've learned a lot over the first year. They hope to make more connections with employers in the community and double the number of participants in the near future.

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