CUMMING — Five local residents have become the first graduates of Forsyth County Superior Court’s Mental Health CARE Court.
CARE stands for change, assist, restore and enlighten. According to a news release from the county government, the graduation concluded more than two years of intensive supervision and treatment for the participants.
Grant funding was secured in 2013 to provide for the planning phase of the court, and the program was launched in March 2014.
Presided over by State Court Judge Leslie Abernathy-Maddox, the program provides alternatives to jail for those who have been identified with severe and persistent mental health illness.
According to the news release, it links them to local, community-based treatment resources with the goal of improving public safety and helping prevent further involvement in the criminal justice system.
In a statement, Abernathy-Maddox said the program “holds the enrollees accountable and assists them in achieving long-term stability so they can be successful members of the community and law-abiding citizens.”
“This program is an asset not only to those who have become our first graduates but also to the entire county,” she said.
According to the news release, prior to mental health courts, the mentally ill were treated the same as other offenders — tried in regular court, sent to jail and prisons and then later released to their communities only to face the same issues.
In addition to the Mental Health C.A.R.E. Court, Forsyth County also offers State Court Drug Court, DUI Court and Superior Court Drug Court programs.