Three people had a very important graduation recently. It didn't fit the norm, but it deserves attention.
The trio graduated from the Lycoming County Mental Health Court program.
Our guess is that a lot of people did not know such a court even existed. And it doesn't, in many counties.
But in Lycoming County, Judge Richard A. Gray supervises a Mental Health Court that provides special support and supervision to individuals with non-violent convictions that have a mental health diagnosis.
Prison is expensive.
This program keeps people who don't need to be incarcerated out of the prison. Instead, each participant is assigned a probation officer, mental health case worker and, if necessary, a drug and alcohol counselor.
According to the judge, the program, which lasts about two years, reduces recidivism. A big reason is that the program participants establish relationships with probation officers, case workers and therapists.
There is also a stick to go with the carrot.
There is no tolerance for non-compliance with the conditions of supervision.
A recent client who tested positive for cocaine is now in prison.
Mentally challenged people who cross the lines of the law are not career criminals.
They can be rehabilitated more easily than career criminals.
But it takes community support and support within the court system. Lycoming County is lucky to have both.