Behavioral Health Court graduate grateful for second chance

June 27, 2024 4:23 pm


Jeremy had his 25th birthday in March. He had a lot to celebrate.

One month earlier, Jeremy had graduated from the Douglas County Behavioral Health Court. The court was established to address the needs of defendants with serious mental illness more effectively, connecting them with community support services. 

Jeremy was charged with second-degree attempted murder after driving a car into Lone Star Lake in February 2021. His mom was a passenger in the car.

“I was struggling with my mental health, and I didn’t know how to handle it,” Jeremy said. “My mom took the full force of what I was going through. That led me to getting arrested and going through the process.”

The process included considerable jail time and being admitted to Larned State Hospital. Jeremy was a patient at the state hospital for about three months.

While there, he had a turning point.

“I had given up on myself. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was thinking everyone had abandoned me,” Jeremy said.

But they hadn’t abandoned him. His mom, his family, his friends, even people he didn’t know, regularly wrote letters, and called to support him.

One day, he finally decided to answer one of those calls. It was from someone he didn’t know.

“She was like you need to get back in contact with your family. They really love you. They forgive you. They don’t hold anything against you,” Jeremy said. “I was like, OK, I am going to give myself a chance. I was nervous. I didn’t know what they thought of me. After I started talking to them, I didn’t want to hang up the phone anymore. I talked to them every day.”

Jeremy’s mom, Faith, lobbied hard for Jeremy to be admitted to behavioral health court.

“I fought for him. He didn’t deserve being in jail. I begged the DA and ultimately, they accepted him into the program,” Faith said.

Michaela Durner, a Bert Nash Center case manager, also advocated for Jeremy to be accepted into the program.

“There was a lot of discussion. A big contributing factor of why he was accepted was his mom and her advocacy for him.

His first court date, everyone was there, his whole family was there to support him. He was ready for the program. From Day One, he’s done everything to a T,” Michaela said. “I never viewed Jeremy as a criminal. I was never once concerned being around him. You look at him and you know he has a good heart and good soul. His family is behind him 100 percent. He had tons of support.”

Jeremy was grateful for the opportunity to get into the program.

“My lawyer said there’s this program and I’m going to try to get you into it, so we applied for it,” Jeremy said. “I was so thankful this program existed. I was praying every day that I would get accepted. I saw this as a chance to prove myself and improve myself. When I got the news, I started crying. I was so thankful they let me into the program.”

Jeremy was in the program for a little more than a year. He graduated Feb. 15. 

“The program is intense. You have goals. You learn coping skills and how to deal with your emotions and anxiety, how to understand yourself,” Jeremy said.

The Honorable Sally Pokorny presides over the specialty program, which is funded by Douglas County. The program is a collaboration among the District Court, District Attorney, Criminal Justice Services, Sheriff’s Office, DCCCA, Bert Nash Center and select defense attorneys.

Jolene Cullen, of Douglas County Criminal Justice Services, serves as the Behavioral Health Court Officer who works closely with clients to ensure they are meeting the program’s goals. Cullen said she is very proud of Jeremy.

“Jeremy is a creative individual, fun to talk to and has the brightest future ahead of him,” Jolene said. “I am so glad he was given the chance to change the direction of his life.  We all live with chapters in our book.  This was one chapter and Jeremy didn’t let this one chapter define his entire story.”

Before graduating from behavioral health court, Jeremy also worked with Danny Rossbach, a Bert Nash Center SEED (Supported Employment Education Development) case manager, to look into jobs and going to school.

"Jeremy really has come a long way from when I first started working with him. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication from him, and I’m really proud of everything he has been able to accomplish,” Danny said.  “He is successfully maintaining a job that he enjoys and is going to school to work toward a career he feels passionately about. I’m just happy I was able to help him out along the way on his journey."

Jeremy’s family and those who worked with him through behavioral health court are proud of him and how he has turned his life around.

“He’s doing great,” his mom said. “He’s doing awesome. He knows he needs his medication, and he’s come to the acceptance that he needs it.”

And case manager Michaela reminded Jeremy, “We are here every single day for you.”

Douglas County Communications Specialist Karrey Britt contributed to this story.

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To hear Jeremy’s mom and others talk about the impact of Douglas County's specialty court programs, watch this video.


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Story By:

Jeff Burkhead

Communications Manager

Bert Nash Center

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