3 finish mental health court
By Nelson Daranciangndaranciang@starbulletin.com
Circuit Judge Michael Wilson called it a "celebration of therapeutic justice." Oahu's mental health court discharged its first three graduates during ceremonies yesterday in the state Supreme Court's courtroom. Wilson, who presided over the ceremony, is the mental health court's presiding judge.
Mental health court is a pilot program of the state Judiciary similar to its drug court. Nonviolent offenders are given the opportunity to avoid jail, and in some cases prosecution, by participating in treatment with court oversight. Anthony Merriweather was the first person to enter mental health court on May 11, 2005.
Merriweather, 49, was facing jail time for violating his probation for theft and credit-card fraud. He said he was homeless and committed the crimes to survive. Merriweather said he got into trouble because he didn't like taking medication to treat his schizophrenia because of its side effects. "Now I just take my medicine and don't worry about it," Merriweather said.
Ronald Labasan was also facing possible jail time for violating his probation for burglary and theft when the court granted his petition to enroll in mental health court Sept. 7, 2005.
Labasan, 43, said he started committing crimes to survive when he was a homeless 16-year-old on Maui and continued into adulthood without break until he entered mental health court. He said his mental illness was brought on by drug use and worsened by his refusal to take his prescribed medication. He also said he continued to abuse methamphetamine and would sometimes combine it with the medication for his mental illness.
"I went berserk," he said. Over the years, Labasan said, he went through two marriages and lost two children to adoption because of his drug use. Graduation releases Merriweather and Labasan from their probation.
Under doctor supervision, Labasan stopped taking medication and no longer abuses ice. He's also a supervisor for an Oahu roofing company. "I'm so glad that they (the court) took a chance on me," Labasan said.