Martin County Mental Health Court – July, 2022

Spotlight on Michelle Derrico.

Michelle was born in North Carolina to a military father, so she and her family lived in many exciting places! When she was nine years old, her father was stationed to Japan, so the family got to travel throughout Southeast Asia. After three years in Japan, the family moved to Idaho for a short period of time, and then back to Michelle’s birthplace.

In 1996, Michelle and her family moved to sunny Florida. She graduated from Port St. Lucie High School in 2001. She was on the swim team and played the clarinet in the marching band and the saxophone in the jazz band. She and her husband were high school sweethearts and met in the band. Michelle completed two years at IRSC, and then went to Florida State University, to be with her now husband.

They are huge Seminole fans and have season tickets to attend all of the football games! In 2005, she got her degree in Criminology with a minor in Psychology. In September of 2019, she started a graduate program and carried on during the height of COVID lockdown where she worked from home, homeschooled her children, and was knee-deep in her graduate studies program. In May of 2021, she got her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Walden University with a very impressive 4.0 GPA.

Michelle joined the Public Defender’s office in 2005 after graduating from Florida State University. She knew that she wanted to work in the criminal justice field and she interviewed with the Public Defender, Diamond Litty. She was hired on the spot. Michelle started working with the Public Defender’s Re-Entry Program and then transferred to Client Services Program in 2007. She has been a valuable team member of the Martin County Mental Health Court program since its inception on October 31, 2007.

Michelle has four children, ten year old twins – a boy and a girl, and an eight and five year old girls. She also has two black goldendoodles, named Chief and Semi –references to the family’s love of FSU. So, between work and four kids, she is a hardworking, very busy lady! She relishes in her rare quiet time and loves to travel with her husband and children.

Michelle’s favorite part of her job is supporting and witnessing the successes of Mental Health Court clients. She loves being an advocate for mental health and the clients she serves to help them reach stability and maintain sobriety. She hopes to witness stronger funding and more solid resources developed – and easier access to those resources, to help this growing population. Her ambition of being a champion of positive social change drives her toward being a better person, wife, mother, friend, and colleague.

HIGHLIGHT

One of our team members, Yuri Parraga, received an award from the Florida Association of County Human Service Administrators in June of 2022. 

Yuri was recognized statewide for her advocacy for both our Mental Health Court program and our participants. Some of the highlights included the establishment of the first mental health house for men in Martin County, employment partnerships for individuals with mental illnesses in our program, acquiring a psychiatrist for the program, developing a relationship with Alpha Pharmacy to open a location in Stuart, and more.

GRADUATION!

MENTAL HEALTH MONTH

Three participants were featured on the 19th Judicial Circuit’s website for Mental Health month in May.

Arthur: “This program has helped me learn to live a better life and have better thinking. I have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and suffer from addiction. My drug of choice was any mood-altering drugs and alcohol. However, I avoid them now with the work of a 12-step program. I also work with a doctor to regularly treat my mental illness and am engaged in mental health counseling. I have learned to be very open and honest with the doctor and my mental health team, because I have learned that taking medicine and honesty is very important to me. [….] The mental health team that works with me has great compassion that provides me healing and recovery. This includes the individuals from the Martin County Mental Health Court, Dove Nest, and with the aid of my sponsor within a 12-step program. I hope others that suffer with mental health illness and addiction find the treatment they need. Treatment that I now know is important for them and myself to have. Having the understanding of a diagnosis and the stabilization it took for me to choose to work on my behalf. I’ve had to learn constructive behaviors and how to apply them to my emotions and thoughts. With time and effort this has become possible. With the right treatment and medicine, I was able to not have episodes of psychosis that I experienced in the past. Finding myself identifying with my feelings on a daily basis helped me change my life. I am grateful to be able to share my story.”

Michelle: “Mental health court has helped me tremendously. They have an amazing team who have helped me get my life back. The entire team helps me keep track of my multiple doctor appointments and medication. My doctor, Greg Landrum, works with the team to make sure I’m getting correct therapy. Yuri is my case manager. She has helped me more than anyone. She found me a beautiful apartment that I love living in. Officer Ceja of probation department has been very supportive. A few months ago my horse was diagnosed with cancer. I was very upset and struggled with my mental health. Yuri and Officer Ceja called me or texted me everyday to check on me. This team is amazing. I feel lucky to be a member of the mental health court program.”

Vitaly: “Mental health court has helped me tremendously by helping me get control of my life and more importantly my mental health. MHC has shown me that I don’t have to face my negative thoughts and bad days alone. They have given me a second chance in life because I didn’t want live. They have given me the treatment and help that I needed, like therapy and medication and amazing people to reach out to when I couldn’t do it anymore. They have shown me that even on my bad days I can get through it with coping skills and reaching out for help even though I didn’t know how to ask for help. I always had the attitude of, “I’m just going do this on my own” and that never panned out well. We should raise mental health awareness because people like me don’t have to suffer alone on our dark days. If we raise mental awareness there probably would be less suicides and people self-medicating and hurting themselves, all because the wires in their head are not connecting positively and they don’t know how or where to seek help. I am forever grateful for Mental Health Court.”

PROGRAM SNAPSHOT

1.            There are currently 90 participants enrolled with a total of 110 cases.

2.            There are 50 individuals with felonies and 40 with misdemeanors.

3.            Since January of 2022, the program has had 30 new participants enter.

4.            We have 4 partnerships for employment.

5.            Currently, 39 of the program participants are employed.

6.            Since January of 2022, there have been a total of 15 participants graduate.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The 2022 Behavioral Health Conference in Orlando will be held in August!

The 2022 RISE National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

The quarterly Drug and Alcohol Abuse Awareness Committee Meeting in September.

Our next Mental Health Court graduation will be held on September 29th, 2022.