BY SHERI TRUSTY
Katlyn Sheppard has walked many times into Judge Bruce Winters courtroom to face the consequences of poor decisions. On Thursday, May 4, she was there again, and this time she had beaten the odds and came to celebrate.
Sheppard was the most recent graduate of Ottawa County Mental Health Court, a specialized docket that offers treatment-oriented options for eligible felony offenders with identified mental health concerns. The program, which began in 2016, is voluntary.
Sheppard has the distinction of being the only Mental Health Court participant to graduate from the program twice. Her first success was sidelined by the challenges of pandemic isolation, which made addiction recovery difficult for thousands of people across the state.
Sheppard’s second graduation proved she had the strength and character to once again face her struggles. It also demonstrated the wisdom of the court’s treatment team which saw her worth and fought for her success.
“She has a lot of promise. She’s a really smart girl, and she has a history of wanting to go into schools to talk to the kids about her path and what she’s doing now,” Winters said. “I see her doing great things.”
The compassionate determination to help people with mental health and addiction struggles that is exemplified in Winter’s courtroom can be seen across Ottawa County.
“We have a lot of organizations and people who are working to support these individuals, not only during work time but also during their private time. We have all these community resources who come together to get on the same page,” said Mental Health Court Coordinator Jaimee Prieur.
Prieur was one of many people in the courtroom who recognized the potential in Sheppard that she sometimes failed to see.
“Katlyn’s come a long way. She’s very young with a lot of good times ahead,” Prieur said.
Sheppard was grateful for those who believed in her potential.
“A year ago, I was really questioning whether I would make it through,” Sheppard said. “With the tools I have and the support, I’ve been able to get through it sober and do the next right thing. I’m so grateful for the support.”