Marysville’s MAP Court offers an alternative path of treatment and support instead of incarceration for those dealing with mental health issues.
The Mental Health Alternatives Program (MAP) had it’s first graduate on Nov. 5.
“For the most part I would like to thank everyone for encouraging me, for holding me accountable, for empowering me to be the man I’ve always wanted to be,” said Cecilio Smith, who had his drug charges dropped after a successful year in the program, during the ceremony.
Those who worked with Smith were happy to see him graduate.
“You had so much courage to come in and say ‘I’m going to turn my life around. This is not the path I want to be on anymore,’” said Marysville prosecutor Jennifer Millet.
The MAP Court is supported by local nonprofit Bridgeways, which provides liaisons that help individuals through the program.
Liaison Cathy Wheatcroft said that Smith was great to have in the program.
“We could joke around and Cecilio knew when I was joking with him. You were always a great person in my peer support group in Everett. I always appreciated that you were always someone who had great insight,” she said.
Defense attorney Tammy McElyen praised Smith’s ability to stick with the program.
“For you to get through this entire year and complete this achievement, you obviously had a lot of belief in yourself and in this program,” she said.
Marysville Municipal Court judge Lorrie Towers said that the MAP Court process is often harder than other paths.
“It’s a rigorous process and the person has to be committed and accountable,” she said.
“It’s actually a lot more work and it would be easier to plead out like most people do and do probation,” she said.
Smith’s kids came to the graduation ceremony to encourage him.
“The reason why I chose this is because family is like my rock and is all the reason I chose to travel down this journey,” he said.
“As you see my kids are so happy and I’m so happy to be involved with them. I’m looking forward to the endless amount of memories.”
Towers said the program is meant to help people get back on their feet with support, instead of using jails or punishment which often simply result in individuals returning to the criminal justice system later.
“We can’t continue to charge or incarcerate them without dealing with the root issues,” she said. “We want to make an impact for people to make a life change.”
The program, which helps those with mental health problems and often substance abuse disorders as well, began about a year and half ago in Marysville.
Bridgeways already supported a similar program in Everett, but they wanted to expand to Marysville, according to Towers, which was the impetus to bring the MAP Court to Marysville.
“We thought that there was a population here who would benefit from some of those services,” she said. “So we formulated a group to work together.”
The MAP Court program at that time wasn’t going to be paid for by the city, but through Bridgeways and Medicaid funding.
“There was no downside to giving it a shot,” said Towers.
The Marysville program has had about eight participants usually.
“I think it is going fantastic. Yesterday, after we had our first graduation, we had another person enter the program,” she said.
Unfortunately, due to Medicaid funding changes the Bridgeways liaison position could be eliminated soon.
The nonprofit organization and locals are hopeful to find alternative ways to fund the position though.
“We’re going to find a way to keep the program going,” said Towers.
“There’s a larger population here that we are concerned about and want to allow into the program,” she said.
More information about the Everett nonprofit is available at bridgeways.org.