AKRON, Ohio — Summit County is known nationwide for rubber, cereal and even hand sanitizer. But it’s becoming better known for what it’s producing in the court room thanks to four judges leading their own mental health courts in Akron, Barberton and Stow.
All women -- each of them moms -- are all passionate about change.
“We’re their biggest cheerleaders, we want to see them achieve their dreams,” explains Judge Lisa Coates from Stow Municipal Court.
When Judge Williams' Mental Health Court in Akron was founded in 2001, it was the first of its kind in Ohio -- and more have since opened, like Judge Breaux’s Hope Court in Summit County Court of Common Pleas.
“We see them do things that they have never done before, and they also never believed they could do before," the judge says.
There's also Judge Jill Flagg Lanzinger’s program in Barberton.
“Judge Lanzinger is amazing…that’s from the bottom of my heart," says Jonathan Hughes, who graduates from Judge Flagg Lanzinger's program next week.
Judge Flagg Lanzinger said she has a heart for mental health training, which grew even bigger after having a child with autism.
“I think my son and Jonathan are actually a lot alike," she says.
Participants range from having anxiety to schizophrenia. Besides attending regular court hearings, they have one-on-one check-ins with the judges, can attend support groups and must continue treatment for their conditions.
But they all have full support from these women.
“With our case managers we are able to help people take the bus for the first time and not feel that anxiety," Judge Williams says. "Helping them with getting their disability, helping them with vocational services to get a job, helping them with housing, where to go if they need clothing or food.”
The desire to go above and beyond for these participants is more than just part of the job. It’s part of who they are as women and moms.
“The same skills you use being a mom, are the very same skills you use in mental health court," Judge Coates says.
Judge Williams treats her participants the same way she would her two kids.
“The first thing I do when someone comes up, their case is called, is to say: 'Tell me something good.'"
That motherly love is really what leads to the participants success.
“They have lived with that for a long time. And lived with a lot of shame and lived with a lot of embarrassment and anger towards themselves," says Judge Breaux. "And to come out of that and see their friends and their family supporting them, is really really beautiful.”
To learn more about Akron's mental health court, click here.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated article on Feb. 23, 2022.