Suicide Prevention Coalition hosts annual presentation
Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren

Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, who pioneered the nation’s first mental health court in 1997, will make a presentation in Owensboro later this month.

Lerner-Wren, who presides over the specialized court in Broward County, Florida, will speak at Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition’s spring conference, which is free to the public.

The program begins at 6:30 p.m. April 26 at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital’s auditorium. Registration starts at 6 p.m.

 Lerner-Wren’s book “A Court of Refuge: Stories from the Bench of America’s First Mental Health Court” was published recently. She will sign her book after her presentation.

CNN, “Good Morning America” and NPR have featured her specialized court and the U.S. Department of Justice has highlighted her work in its best practices.

Lerner-Wren has received many awards and honors, and President George W. Bush appointed her to the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.

Her work was key in the passage of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, which became law in 2000.

Mike Flaherty, an Owensboro psychologist and president of the local Suicide Prevention Coalition, hopes Lerner-Wren’s presentation serves as the spark to start a mental health court in Daviess County. He is aware of only one in Kentucky — in Hardin County.

“We have a drug court,” Flaherty said of Daviess County. “We have a family court. If we want to be a progressive community, a mental health court would go a long way … .”

According to the Council of State Governments, there are more than 300 mental health courts across the nation today.

From 1997 to date, he said, her court has placed about 20,000 people with various types of psychiatric conditions in rehabilitation facilities and community programs instead of jailing them. Jail can worsen mental health issues, he said.

“This is an approach that can turn a person’s life around,” Flaherty said. ” … No telling how many lives could be positively impacted.”

Also, he hopes Lerner-Wren’s presentation helps lessen the stigma surrounding mental health. People who need professional help often hesitate to seek assistance because of the stigma associated with mental issues.

Pre-registration to Lerner-Wren’s presentation is appreciated but not necessary to attend. Guests may pre-register at

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, [email protected]