Eleven people charged with felonies graduated from Lancaster County Mental Health Court on Wednesday for the option to have those charges reduced, dismissed and/or expunged.
The mission of the Mental Health Court is “to improve public safety and reduce recidivism rates for offenders with serious mental illness through mandatory, comprehensive, community-based treatment and services that promote community safety, the judiciary, financial prudence and individual recovery.
The tribunal started in 2010 and has had 90 graduates in its 12 years of existence. The last graduation was two years ago due to COVID-19.
Lancaster County Judge Margaret C. Miller delivered welcoming remarks and introduced the mental health court team, which includes Karen Andreadis, coordinator; Robert Wentzel and Carl Driedger, probation officers; Danielle Peachey, BHDS Case Manager; Stephanie Smith, assistant district attorney; David Romano, Deputy Public Defender; Julia Hernandez and David Miller, Drugs and Alcohol Commission; Eric Eshleman, Behavioral Healthcare Corporation; Chad Stains and Rebecca Sangrey, BHDS; January Abel, Recovery InSight; Christina Fluegel, LCP Inmate Services Specialist; Trina Brown-Hinton, office specialist; and Hamlet, courthouse dog.
Other program supporters include Keystone Services, Mental Health America, Crisis Intervention Team, Arch Street Center, Community Services Group, TEMPO, COBYS Family Services, Mid Penn Legal Services, Transitional Living Center, Tenfold, Behavior Healthcare Corporation, TW Ponessa and Associates , Recovery InSight, Wellspan Philhaven, Re-Uzit Shop and Lancaster Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
Probation officers Wentzel and Driedger spoke about each graduate’s determination to complete the program and Assistant District Attorney Smith announced that one of the graduates had been approved to have his charges dismissed.
Arch Street Centre’s executive director Susan Lilly was the keynote speaker, stressing that recovering from mental health is a journey “and a big part of that journey is making it fun and taking care of yourself” through socializing and recreation, especially during the pandemic.
Judge Miller presented each graduate with replicas of the sanity bell. The bell acts as a symbol of hope, created in 1953 from the melted iron chains and shackles previously used to restrain the mentally ill from inhuman asylums.
An inscription on the bell reads, “Thrown from the chains that bound them, this bell will ring hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”