Remarks at press conference announcing Mental Health Court demonstration project in Scott County

6/24/2016 - After years of planning, the Quad Cities Interfaith Restorative Justice Task Force has started a new mental health court in Scott County, Iowa. (Michelle O'Neill, WVIK News)

Good morning.

I am Reverend Clark Olson-Smith. I’m the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Clinton, Iowa. And I’m the president of Quad Cities Interfaith.

Quad Cities Interfaith empowers ordinary people to transform their community. We’ve done it for 30 years. Our members include 25 congregations and community organizations. We come from diverse faith traditions. But we are united by common faith values to make a real difference in the Quad Cities.

We believe all people are created in the image of God. We believe redemption is always possible. We believe justice—and restoring justice—requires nurture and not punishment.

That’s what today is all about. This Mental Health Court demonstration project in Scott County is all about these faith values. Prison and punishment are not the answer.

For me, it’s personal. Fourteen years ago, my dad attempted suicide. And before that, in his depression, he acted out in unpredictable ways. Today, my dad is alive and well. He had support from family and his church. He also had access to treatment and to a doctor who could prescribe medication. He had health insurance, and he could afford to get well.

Not everyone can. And that’s not right.

Some people have no access to treatment for mental illness until after they’ve been arrested. Our jails and prisons are among the largest providers of mental health services.

There but for the grace of God go I. Or my dad. Or your daughter. Or a neighbor or coworker. Or the most joyful member of your congregation.

Thankfully, today is a new day. Now, by the grace of God and through the effort of Quad Cities Interfaith and the whole coalition here today—there is hope. With intensive treatment and accountability, there’s a chance at redemption. A chance at healing. A chance for people with mental illness to become well and turn their lives around.

That’s good news for all of us.

I’m proud to be part of Quad Cities Interfaith, an organization like none other in the Quad Cities. I’m honored to stand with these devoted partners.

I’m especially grateful to the Genesis Foundation for their generous investment in this project. I’m also grateful to the Regional Development Authority and the Doris and Victor Day Foundation, which funded Quad Cities Interfaith to explore a restorative justice project in Scott County. These investments have paid off.

The work is not done. This Mental Health Court in Scott County is not permanent. There’s still a chance for you to make an investment too.

Thank you, and God bless.