|St. Louis County Mental Health Court Specialized Probation Officer Matt Koppes with UMD student Chelsea Blaylock who is interning with Koppes.|
Chelsea Blaylock, who graduated this month with a double major in psychology and criminology, wants to make a difference in the field of mental health. “I realize our mental health system is inadequate,” she said. “One person isn’t going to fix the mental health system, but I want to try.”
Blaylock is working as an intern with Specialized Probation Officer Matt Koppes at St. Louis County’s Mental Health Court (MHC). “Interning with an MHC probation officer has added to my experience with the MHC, and I couldn't be more thankful,” Blaylock said.
Incarcerated individuals with mental health issues often go untreated and wind up in worse condition than before they were imprisoned. MHC can offer sanctuary to those convicted, aiding individuals in managing their mental illness.
As a problem solving court, MHC has specialized probation caseloads. This court is intended to address the overrepresentation of people with mental health issues in the criminal justice system.
St. Louis County MHC is one of three in the state. In order to be admitted into this particular MHC, one must have a felony on their record. This differs from state to state and county to county.
In the Field
Blaylock's internship is the real deal. She and Koppes wear bullet-proof vests because outcomes can be unpredictable. “It’s really interesting to be in the field – there is this one house that we have been to multiple times,” she said. “The house we check up on is known for drug use and a lot of our mental health clients are known to turn up there.”
Blaylock and Koppes are there to help and to make a difference. “The MHC team impresses me all the time,” she said. “I know that sounds cliché, but this team excels at problem solving and working together to make decisions that better each participant.” She spoke highly of how each team member goes above and beyond. The team remains accessible after work hours. Koppes keeps his work cell on him at all times, in case something happens with a client.
Blaylock gave an example of how the team goes all out for clients. “A few weeks ago, a MHC participant got accepted to a treatment program down in St. Paul since Duluth was not a good place for her at the time,” she explained. “Matt and Kim Davis [an MHC client advocate] both drove down to the cities on Sunday – their day off – and back to Duluth in order to bring this participant to treatment. Things like that show they really care about their clients.”
Blaylock found her internship to be invaluable as it has increased her knowledge and understanding. “Matt has taught me skills pertaining to networking, which have helped me meet people at the Human Development Center (HDC) who I needed to get in touch in regards to a position. My internship has allowed me to get to know people from various agencies relating to the mental health field and the criminal justice field. I am very lucky to have had this experience with my supervisor as he has given me opportunities I wouldn't have had if I interned elsewhere. I couldn't be more thankful.”
Now she is ready to begin her career. “I am very interested in becoming an adult mental health case manager. My internship will be over on May 29. I will be applying at the HDC for a position and am hoping to pursue a career there in mental health case management.”
Written by Mackenzie Timm and Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann May, 2015.
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