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March 4, 2013

Mental Health Court grad emotional

'It saved my life'

PLATTSBURGH — Carissa LaPier waited nervously outside a Clinton County courtroom, her graduation from a grueling program at last at hand.

She had been working toward the milestone for more than three years.

“I never thought this day would come,” she said. “It saved my life. Without (Clinton County) Mental Health Court or any of my supports, I’d be sitting in jail right now.”

The program offers the strict guidance of a team that includes members from both law enforcement and mental-health treatment. Participants are required to stick to a treatment plan, take medications as ordered and, among other rules, report in on a regular basis.

“It’s been rough, and it was hard work,” Carissa said. 

By her side were her mother, Clare, her sister Camille and a friend, Tonyea Ellis.

“It’s quite emotional for all of us,” Clare said. “It’s been a long process.”

“I’m very proud of Carissa’s achievements,” Camille said. “I’m glad to see her smile and get through it finally.”

Ellis agreed.

“She’s overcome a lot of barriers and challenges.”

Carissa’s other sister, Rosie, and her father, David, could not be at the ceremony but have offered unwavering support to Carissa in her journey to graduation, Clare said.

HARD TO GET HELP

Because Carissa was older than 18 and legally an adult, it was hard to find help for her when she needed it most, Clare said.

“It really took her getting into trouble to get her help,” she said.

In 2009, Carissa pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless endangerment, unlawful interference with a railroad train and fourth-degree criminal mischief. She was sentenced to five years probation.

She hopes to put all that behind her once her probation expires in 10 months.

Doctors at various times diagnosed her with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and personality disorders. 

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