29th District Court holds virtual graduation ceremony for its Western Wayne Regional Behavioral Treatment Court


More than 30 graduates completed the Regional Behavioral Treatment Court program and were recognized in a virtual graduation ceremony June 9.
(Photo courtesy of Wayne County 29th District Court)

On June 9, Wayne County 29th District Court Judge Breeda O’Leary hosted a virtual graduation ceremony honoring the participants that have successfully completed the Western Wayne County’s Regional Behavioral Treatment Court (“RBTC”) program. This ceremony was held to honor all participants who graduated the program since the COVID pandemic.

Judge Laura Mack, who previously served as the 29th District Court judge, recognized the need for mental health services among the individuals coming before her in her courtroom and established the RBTC program in 2013. The mission of the RBTC is to compassionately provide appropriate services and monitoring of adult defendants convicted of misdemeanor crimes in Western Wayne County who suffer from serious mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and/or co-occurring disorders, to reduce the burdens on the criminal justice system, reduce the costs of mental health treatment and improve the quality of the participants’ lives.  Judge O’Leary, who replaced retired Judge Mack in June of 2020, is committed to continuing the RBTC program.

Over 30 graduates completed the RBTC program during the pandemic, and many were excited to attend and share their thoughts about life after successfully
graduating.  One graduate, Lance Kennard, candidly shared that he had been involved with the court system previously, but that this program was different, mainly because he was treated as an equal and with respect; he truly felt that the RBTC programs’ team members were his support system who cared deeply about his success.

The ceremony’s guest speaker, Harold Leffal, spoke of his hardships as a low-income child with a father addicted to heroin, but emphasized that everyone is capable of moving on and facing life’s challenges as well as reminding the graduates and current participants that they have the strength to live a stable and happy life.

Many stakeholders and elected officials in the community were in attendance to show support for the graduates, including Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington, the Chief of the Wayne Police Department Ryan Strong, the City of Wayne City Council members: Mayor Pro Tem Tom Porter and Councilwoman Kelly Skiff, as well as a variety of probation officers from surrounding district courts within the Western Wayne County region including 28th District Court Probation Officers Greg Ash, Haley Blair, and Bridget Davis; 18th District Court Probation Officer Eric Lange; 19th District Court Probation Officers Silvana Motto and Murray Davis; and 17th District Court Probation Officers Muriel Laforge, Janet Lynch, and Michael Stetz.

Each graduate was honored individually and had an opportunity to address the attendees and court.  One graduate explained his numerous struggles in the criminal justice system and his addiction to alcohol, even stating that he thought his fate was to die until he found structure within the RBTC program.

Another graduate sent an email after the ceremony that resonated with the treatment court team.  She said, “I want to say thank you. I now have a two-bedroom house, I
have a car, I have a job. This program made me see life differently, made me want to do better not just for myself but more for my daughter. I have to set an example for her to do right in life and you don’t need substances to get through things when life gets tough. I work delivering pizzas, it pays good money, just last night I made over $200 in tips. I’m starting to save money to buy a house for me and my daughter. You show you care for us, I have my life sort of together because of this program and I know my mom would be proud of me. Thank you so much.”


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