Telecare WIT (Whatever It Takes) offers service users a last opportunity to receive services in the community, rather than in jail or prison, along with the supports to meet the requirements set by the Orange County Court.
One of WIT’s very first members was an individual who was homeless, chronically abusing drugs, not on medication, and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He was also continually racking up multiple non-violent charges in a high profile way.
Upon admission, WIT staff were very hands on. When this member entered, they paid his rent and helped him obtain his SSI benefits.
The two probation officers assigned, as well as WIT staff, routinely drug test members as per their conditional release. When a member relapses, they start the phase from the beginning. It took a few tries to get him the necessary medications, and for WIT to be able to be less hands on. However, when he began participating in a music group that had been created by a WIT staff member -- one of 30 education and skill-building groups offered each week -- something in him dramatically changed.
“His self-esteem just sky rocketed,” said Susan Hull, administrator of WIT. “He was good at something, and when he would get behind the guitar, behind the microphone, he transformed into a rock star. You didn’t see a mentally ill, ex-criminal. You saw somebody who was special and so good at what he was doing and loved it.”
Eventually, the group therapy session became member-led. They created a band and performed at events that took place at the court house or at program parties. County monitors, judges, and WIT staff were all impressed with this particular member’s transformation.
“This member was able to apply for shelter plus care (rental subsidy), moved into his own apartment, subsidized, but independently and was able to support himself and linked to a psychiatrist,” said Susan.
Last year, that member graduated.
“Graduations in the court are very special and the judge speaks to them and commends them for the accomplishments they have made,” said Susan. “His graduation was one of the biggest turnouts that’s ever happened for the WIT program — his probation officer from 10-15 years ago showed up. People were just packed in the court room to see him graduate.”
Current members often attend ceremonies as well.
“I think it's motivation for them when they can see what happens if you follow through. They got to see how much he had grown and improved. His quality of life was a thousand times better than it was prior.”