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Courtroom for mental health credited for saving lives

Davenport, Iowa - A client of the Scott County Mental Health Court credits the service for saving his life.

The program is entering its third year.

A grassroots effort led by Quad Cities Interfaith created the program in 2016.

It's meant to break the cycle of those with mental illness ending up behind bars.

Instead, it provides people access to treatment and support services to address their diagnosis.

The Mental Health Court Car Coordinator told Local Four News there are currently about a dozen active clients in their intensive program.

To be a part of the diversion program, participants need to be facing a misdemeanor or non-violent felony with a diagnosed mental illness.

Then clients meet with the team leading the services daily if not more and hold a session at the Scott County Courthouse every Friday where participants go before the judge to discuss their successes and where they could use additional resources.

Keith Donahue said it was three years ago when his bipolar disorder started impacting his everyday life. He was living in Utah at the time working as a social worker.

With the mood swings, he moved to the Quad Cities to be closer to his family. 

Donahue said he attempted suicide multiple times and the last attempt found him in trouble with the law.

With no criminal history, it opened the door to another, providing him with a court to address his mental illness and get the help he needed.

Keith Donahue said, "In the last three years, I've had nine hospital stays, with over 30 suicide attempts."

Now, life looks a lot different for Keith Donahue, saying he hasn't had the bipolar episodes that had him thinking of taking his life or sending him in the hospital.
 
"This program has saved my life," said Donahue.

The program is the Scott County Mental Health Court, getting him the help and resources Donahue said he was missing previously in his care and having trouble accessing. 

Donahue said, "Get you tied in with therapy, psychiatry and they just help you with basically everything you need."

Donahue said because of the service, it's also helped him get his own place to live again.
But he added, even the other clients play a significant role in his treatment, as they meet every week to work on moving forward.

Donahue said, "Practice those coping skills, and we put them into real-life situations, and it brings it together where you don't necessarily feel alone."

Donahue said the program even provided support for his family, including his sister who served as a caregiver.
With the progress he's making, Donahue wants people to know the value of this program including saving taxpayer dollars by keeping him and others out of jail.

Donahue said, "One of my medications is over $1,000 a month. If I was in jail, they would have to be paying for that."

A progress report provided by the Mental Health Court says in the first year and a half, it's avoided about $300,000 in costs to the county.
That's why Donahue said he's been reaching out to lawmakers, sharing his story to help get state funding and support to advance mental health court services.

Donahue "I see that there's someone good on the inside and it's life-changing."

Donahue said he's now waiting to hear back on his application to move to the next phase of the program.

The Mental Health Court program includes four phases, and for most of the clients, they have to be in the program for a minimum of two years before they're eligible to graduate.

The Mental Health Court has been funded primarily through Genesis Philanthropy.

The Care Coordinator told Local Four News for their third year, they were awarded three additional grants. Those include North Scott Rotary, a JAG grant through the Governor Office of Drug Control Policy and Eastern Iowa MHDS Region.

The main cost is the contract with Transitions Mental Health Services that provides administrative services for the program

Court and probation staff have also been donating their time to make this service available.

Rock Island County has also operated a Mental Health Court since 2007. 


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