Editor's note: Heather Lewis is from the Montco Participatory Defense hub in Montgomery County, PA. Here, she writes about a mom the hub supported in helping bring her son, Junior, home. The Montco Participatory Defense hub recently held a time saved celebration where loved ones who came home were able to be erase their name off the white board, a participatory defense tradition. The Montco Participatory Defense hub's time saved celebration can be watched at the below or here.
Junior’s mom Carol came to our hub to get help for her son Junior. Junior was having a mental health crisis that was causing him to have repeated contact with the police for petty arguments with his roommates as a result of not taking his medications. These altercations ultimately caused Junior to lose his housing and become homeless for a bit. Naturally, homelessness intensified his deteriorating mental health and escalated his contact with the police. After acquiring five (5) new cases between two (2) counties, Carol, his mom had had enough.
It took the coordination of the Montco Participatory Defense Hub, the Pottstown Police and Judge Kropp to focus on the cause of Junior’s excessive police contact as it related to his mental health and his public defender applied for behavioral health court (BHC) on Junior’s behalf. BHC is a diversion court for individuals who are suffering from a mental health crisis that led to police contact. Junior’s medical records were examined, testimony from his family and the compassion of the Pottstown Police Department recognizing that Junior was in a manic state that needed to be stabilized. All parties agreed that incarceration was not going to help Junior be successful in meeting his obligations to the court without getting his mental health under control.
Finally, after five (5) months of being incarcerated, Junior’s BHC application was approved and he was released into a program that provided housing, life coaches and qualified doctors and therapists to help Junior on his journey to healing. During the next 12 months, Junior was appropriately medicated, obtained employment, bought a car and graduated from the program free and clear of the criminal legal system. Relationships with his family were mended and he has set boundaries on a foundation he recognizes as a necessity for his independence.
On January 18, 2024 Junior, along with his mother and his Participatory Defense Montco family, he erased his name off of our white board with 22 years time saved.