‘I don’t even know what to say right now – I’m speechless’
Two years ago Shilo Payne found himself sent to a health treatment court – he had developed a cannabis dependency and neglected to treat his mental illness.
Yesterday, he was celebrating graduating from the court’s programme, being clear of his addiction and looking forward to an interview that could land him a job.
Speaking at the Mental Health Treatment Court’s annual Thanksgiving celebration, Mr Payne, 38, thanked social workers with the Department of Court Services for their help.
“I don’t even know what to say right now – I’m speechless. I’m just happy for the success. I really wanted to graduate,” he said.
The treatment court offers offenders a chance to clear themselves of criminal charges as long as they stick to a programme of mental health and addiction treatment.
The celebration took place in Magistrates’ Court and offered people in the programme a chance to reflect on their treatment and what they are grateful for.
Mr Payne said that he found himself in the programme in 2020 after a run-in with the law.
The programme, he said, helped him realise that he had developed a cannabis dependency and neglected to treat his mental illness properly.
Mr Payne said his treatment involved staying away from drugs and regularly using medication, as well as staying out of trouble and “keeping my head straight”.
He added that he kept himself occupied with other activities to keep himself away from drugs – even ones that made it difficult for him to use cannabis.
“I drank a lot of soda to stop myself from smoking. For some reason soda and weed don’t mix, so I used that to stay drug free.
“I took a lot of advice from everybody in the programme so that I could graduate and pass. I just really wanted to keep my record clear.”
Mr Payne said that now that his record had been cleared he planned to stay out of trouble and manage his mental health.
He added that he had landed a job interview next month and was hopeful of starting work soon.
A Transport Control Department employee was given an award for creating a programme to help those in Mental Health Treatment Court qualify for a motorcycle licence.
Charles Clarke was given the Kathleen Esther Ford Community Partnership Award yesterday during the court’s Thanksgiving sitting.
He told the court: “I took the view that the Government is one – if you need something done, I, as a Government employee, will do it.”
Mr Clarke worked with the Department of Court Services to start a programme to help those within the treatment court better prepare for the written portion of their qualification exams.
The court heard that many within the treatment programme struggled with this portion, which hindered their chances of gaining or renewing their motorcycle licences.
This forced many who needed to travel despite having a valid licence to break the law, which resulted in traffic fines that often could not be paid.
Russ Ford, with the Department of Court Services, said that Mr Clarke’s idea had helped two within the programme receive their licences and would help many others.
He added: “You are a credit to our country and you have demonstrated two of the most important parts of the Mental Health Treatment Court – care and compassion.”
Senior Magistrate Maxanne Anderson, who oversees the treatment court, said it was the favourite part of her job.
She added: “We like to think of ourselves as a family and that includes the clients. I get the most out of being here on Thursday morning – it kind of rejuvenates me.”
Ms Anderson said that everyone involved – from the staff to legal aid and even the bailiffs – were an integral and appreciated part of the court.
Tinee Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, congratulated members of the treatment court on their progress.
Ms Furbert said she had been involved since its inception and described the programme as “a piece of me”.
She told participants: “We will always need support no matter who we are. We know that when we are motivated we have more chances of success.
“This programme supports you, even when you are no longer a part of it. Know that we are here to support you, so know that you can reach out if you need support.”