Mental Health Court Mandates Schizophrenics And Bipolar Suicidal Offenders To Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings

This is confirmation of the growing number of Mental Health Courts and Drug Courts that are sending their seriously mentally ill, suicidal offenders to a Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meeting near you! Mandating the mentally ill patients to 12 step programs that dont like therapists and tell many participants not to take their meds. Wow,that sounds like a swell idea! Let’s not forget how proud AA/NA/CA is that they are forever non-professionals. AA likes to call their unique demographics that are made up of violent felons, sexual predators, serial rapists, murders and the seriously mentally ill ( many whom are suicidal), a wonderful place to encourage teenagers and younger minors to come join!

AA is famous for stating that the meetings are just a microcosm of society. Let me tell you-they are completely WRONG!!!!!! Actually AA meetings are a microcosm of AA/NA period, and the people who run them around the country. AA/NA meetings are a dangerous place for minors and other vulnerable people.

Limitations Of 12 Step Programs

12 Step programs designed for people whose problems are primarily substance abuse are generally not recommended for people who also have a mental illness. These programs tend to be confrontive and coercive and most people with severe mental illnesses are too fragile to benefit from them. Heavy confrontation, intense emotional jolting, and discouragement of the use of medications tend to be detrimental. These treatments may produce levels of stress that exacerbate symptoms or cause relapse.

An afternoon in the biweekly mental-health courtroom of Washington County Judge Marco Hernandez in Hillsboro. The scene in court includes, left to right, Jeff MacLean, deputy district attorney; Joe Simich, probation officer; Rebecca Blaney, public defender; and a client reporting to Judge Hernandez.

Washington County Oregon At the start of a recent Mental Health Court session, the 50-year-old judge tells the crowd he shredded his ankle his first time snowboarding. One of the defendants, diagnosed as a bipolar alcoholic, says falling is the best part and volunteers to teach the judge how to do it right.

Another time, a meth addict with a bipolar diagnosis says she is discouraged that her theft conviction keeps her from getting a decent job.

“I started out washing dishes and I was a janitor,” Hernandez barks, waving his arm as the defendants laugh. “I went all the way through college, and my first job was a maid! What’s up with that? A four-year degree and I’m a maid!”

Hernandez leads Mental Health Court as part inspirational speaker, part compassionate confessor, part stern uncle.

The banter puts the mentally ill defendants at ease. Hernandez shows he believes in them and trusts them. In turn, they don’t want to disappoint.

The rapport between judge and defendants, along with intense supervision and hard work by a team of court, corrections and mental health staff, has helped the special court navigate the ups and downs of its first year.

“So, what’s going on?” the judge asks a big man who has schizophrenia and a cocaine addiction. Earlier, Hernandez sent the man to jail on a probation violation.

“I’m doing the classes, I’m out of jail, I’m sleeping in the Coop every night,” the man says, referring to a Luke-Dorf Inc. group home for mentally ill substance abusers. “I’m going to classes. I’m observing the rules every night.”

Progress can be uneven
The Washington County team struggles to deal with the breakdowns that can haunt the mentally ill.

One woman died from a heroin overdose. Some participants attempt suicide, abuse alcohol or use illicit drugs. Some miss appointments and classes. Every session, the judge metes out jail time or community service to those who slip up.

“I’m not messing around,” Hernandez bluntly tells a man who left the Coop and was caught using drugs. “We had a deal. I’ve gone way out of my way to help you out on this, but you aren’t doing your part.”

Hernandez and Simich say they have learned to look at how far the participants have come, not how far they have to go.

One woman with a bipolar diagnosis used to be hospitalized several times a week, threatening suicide. Since she’s been coming to Mental Health Court — and since Hernandez sent her to jail for 90 days for using meth again –“we broke her of that and she did well for a while,” Simich says.

Heather Wiegele, 30, who was diagnosed as bipolar at age 13, was convicted of drunken driving and skipped out on her probation. She says she appreciates that Hernandez, who told her she had to comply or go to jail, is tough but fair. Clean and sober for 7-1/2 months, Wiegele asked Hernandez during court in February if she could move to Arizona to be closer to family. The judge conferred with the rest of the team and said she needed to get a job and finish the program here.

“When she came in last year, I thought she was going to die, she was literally shaking,” Hernandez explains later.

A couple of weeks after she professed she was ready to leave, Wiegele’s depression got the best of her. She drank, took 60 of her anti-anxiety pills and ended up in the hospital. Now she’s back in Mental Health Court and attending extra Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She has a landscaping job and has moved into the Coop.

What kind of treatment would a defendant be ordered to complete?
Each defendant will have a treatment plan that addresses their unique needs and community safety. The treatment plan could include mental health treatment, medications, inpatient or outpatient chemical dependency treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous, domestic violence treatment, sex offender treatment or other specialized treatments as recommended.
What are the primary goals of Mental Health Court?
  1. Community safety
  2. Systems integration and service facilitation for our defendants
  3. Reducing the criminalization of persons with mental illness and other brain disorders
Hmmm, are they really caring about ‘community safety’ ?

Juvenile Justice Participants Mandated to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous.

Does the Drug Treatment Court Program have special conditions? 

Yes. To finish the program, the minor must:

  • Go to drug counseling
  • Go to a court review every 2 weeks
  • Contact the community worker that supervises them every week
  • Go to school regularly
  • Have drug tests every week
  • Go to ‘12-step’ meetings at least twice a week. This can be Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous.
  • Write in a journal 2 times a week
They are mandating juveniles to the same meetings as felons and sex offenders.

4 thoughts on “Mental Health Court Mandates Schizophrenics And Bipolar Suicidal Offenders To Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings

  1. Is it possible someone will send the judge in Washington country some SMART recovery material to show these poor people would be better served within that programme framework? These suffering people would fit in well there as SMART members are trying their best by using CBT to deal with a wide variety of problems and not just simply alcohol abuse.

    After managing only 3 months complete abstinence those who have completed the online training can then open and facilitate their own meetings, welcoming others who are interested in recovering from all the different problems they might have.

    In progressive countries like Australia, the prison system has been demanding their high level repeat sex offenders and the most violent of their felons attend SMART meetings for almost 4 years. There are no records of complaints about them from the SMART members who have had no maximum secruity prison experience, so we can assume these men have finally found a home wherein no one is going to try to belittle or control them, and they need not do anything they don’t want to.

    Because we care so much about those with mental illness, violent ex-cons, maladapted severe sex offenders and minors, Judge Hernandez and really all US judges should hear about and then start using this far better “SMART” option for referring the people they are forced to deal with daily.

    I find when there are things going on that sorely upset us, often there are simple ways that will serve to alter those situations and thus resolve our problems, allowing us to quickly calm down and regain our balance again.

    By attending SMART meetings we can learn tools to better handle upsetting events and trends as in this article, that may cause our heads to spin around like little tops if not resolved in the best available ways. Everyone who cares about these people should send off at least a few letters to their local judges and prison officials today, asking that they immediately cease sending these people to AA and suggest the “Aussie way” to them. Often a little action is required in resolving upsetting things like the judge misdirecting the mentally ill to obtain help, but the resultant peace of mind is definitely worth it!

    • Safedefrost. Thanks for your comment. I am a big fan of SMART and met many of the people who run SMART at their annual conference in Baltimore Maryland in 2011. They are growing, but not fast enough for me! I want to see them expand more online meetings and face to face meetings. I think the 12 step program is very bad for the mentally ill. I cannot even imagine what a poor schizophrenic is put through going through the 12 steps like confessions etc. I was shocked when I found this out. I have great compassion for the mentally ill, and they need real help by using CBT methods like SMART Recovery uses.

      In Florida we did introduce SMART Recovery to the 7th judicial court system which includes Volusia County, Flagler County, St. Johns etc. Even though we were successful in getting them to change their paperwork to say that SMART Recovery could be a choice instead of AA or NA, it was not really embraced. They just did it to technically comply on paper. There are hardcore 12 steppers in Drug Courts and other courts that think AA is the only way.

      In St. Augustine their are SMART Recovery meetings, yet St Johns Drug Court wanted anyone considering going to a SMART meeting to have a SPONSOR or an equivalent. Considering that goes against SMART Recovery program, it is grossly unfair for the courts to try and force AA program on another.

      Any interest in helping with your great suggestions? We can use all the help we can demanding that courts offer a secular, science based approach to addition issues. If there are not available SMART meetings than the courts need to start their own or not be allowed to force anyone to any meetings until they straighten out this problem.

  2. Not all areas have Mental Health Courts, but it is estimated that over 50% of addicts have a dual diagnosis/mental illness. So if your area has Drug Courts and/or the Department of Corrections, they too mandate the mentally ill as well to AA and NA meetings. They just are not dealt with in a special court.

  3. Here is an interesting problem being caused by Mental Health Courts. Because Judges are mandating various treatment for the mentally ill that have committed crimes, it is leaving the mentally ill that have NOT committed crimes without the help they need. Room is made for court mandated mentally ill to receive services, while the others have to get in line. This article also speaks about dealing with the dangerous mentally ill as well. This begs the question-Why the hell are they sending minors to these AA/NA/CA meetings ??????

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *