As a Hearing Master for the District Court, I handle the criminal and civil law mental health cases: Mental Health Court, Co-Occurring Disorders Court, Civil Commitments, and the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program. I have studied how trauma can change one’s brain chemistry to create mental health issues later in life. I have learned to use proven techniques to help motivate people towards positive behavior change. I incorporated evidence-based practices into our courts to improve our outcomes –fewer hospitalizations, fewer incidents of repeat crime, and more productive and independent lives.


The most difficult barrier that I have found, however, is the stigma of mental illness and addiction. While I feel hopeful because more celebrities and others are talking openly about their mental health struggles, there are still deep-rooted stigmas around mental illness that can cause feelings of shame and embarrassment, especially in certain cultures and communities. We must work to educate ourselves about these public health issues, so we are more aware of how to support and provide solutions for community members in need. Mental illness and substance use disorders, just like heart disease or diabetes, are diseases that must be managed through education and treatment. De-stigmatizing these public health issues will help those who are struggling to feel hope for wellness through treatment, instead of being ashamed and trying to hide their condition.


The pandemic has brought extra challenges to those who are already hurting; feelings of isolation and loneliness can worsen one’s mental health. One of the silver linings, however, has been the growing access to treatment and support groups online and over the phone. While we still have a ways to go to build the community resources to meet our ever-growing needs, one thing we can do as a community is learn how to support those who need help, and remove the stigma from mental illness and substance use disorders.


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