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“Mental health court” leaders visit School, find ways to collaborate

Chief District Court Judge Joe Buckner and court Programs and Special Projects Manager Marie Lamoureaux visited the UNC School of Social Work on Jan. 26 to learn more about the research activities at the School, and ways UNC and the court might collaborate to benefit the community.

Among his responsibilities, Buckner oversees Orange and Chatham County’s Community Resource Court and Drug Treatment Court.

These courts, a cooperative effort by the county judicial and mental health systems, were created to address the treatment needs of people with mental health or substance abuse issues who became involved with the criminal courts. It is a special type of court that links eligible offenders with services and supports. Some people call the Community Resource Court a “mental health court” because it helps people with mental illness stay out of trouble with the law by helping them get the treatment they need.

At the School, Buckner and Lamoureaux met with Dean Jack Richman and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Anna Scheyett, and participated in a roundtable discussion that included faculty members Drs. Trenette Clark, Gary Cuddeback, Rebecca Macy and Amelia Roberts-Lewis. They learned about faculty research involving mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence and criminal justice.

Buckner has already called upon our faculty to learn more about their findings in some of these areas. For example, Scheyett and Cuddeback have previously discussed their work involving health conditions of justice-involved persons with mental illness.

Learning more about the research and service going on at UNC should lead to more collaboration, according to Scheyett. The School currently has a master’s student working in a field placement at the Community Resource Court. Future activities might also include organizing a visit for students to the court; and opportunities for training, research and program evaluation.

“This is part of our continuing effort to inform public leaders about the service we provide to the state of North Carolina, and ways we can be an informational resource as they make important decisions,” said Scheyett.