Cooley Law School Student Awarded Scholarship

LANSING, MI-- Cooley Law School student Dawn Young, of Shelby Township, Mich., has been named the 2013 recipient of the Macomb County Bar Foundation's (MCBF) 2013 Kimberly M. Cahill Memorial Scholarship. The award, a $3,000 scholarship for Ms. Young's studies at Cooley, was formally presented at the foundation's annual dinner meeting on May 30.

Young said she applied for the scholarship because she's a law student with a mission. "I went to law school to obtain the expertise and skills to advocate for individuals with mental illness. I have made this my life's work not only because it has the potential to improve my community, but because it is a deeply personal issue to me. I know firsthand how the mental health and legal systems intersect."

Young, who is a student at Cooley's Auburn Hills campus, experienced as a youth the negative outcomes that often occur in encounters between the legal system and individuals with mental health issues. She had close relatives who experienced involuntary commitment, loss of custody, and drug addiction due to lack of understanding and access to treatment for their mental health conditions. The legal system, she said, is not the cause of these issues, but does have the power to help remedy them.

"I intend to devote my legal career to advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities and improving the mental health system," Young said. "I believe change happens through community involvement. Training on how to identify and respond to mental health issues must be provided to school personnel, law enforcement, families, lawyers, and judges. The legal community has an important role to play in this effort."

The Cahill scholarship, considered MCBF's most prestigious award, is named for former State Bar of Michigan President Kim Cahill, who passed away shortly after her tenure ended. To Young, the fact that the scholarship is named for Cahill makes the award an even greater honor.

"I recently lost my best friend, age 28, to cancer. I am proud to carry forward this scholarship in Kimberly M. Cahill's name as I now understand how important it is to have a friend's spirit forever memorialized."

Young has a plan to implement her mission.

"My goal is to help implement a mental health court here in Macomb County. This specialized court would process non-violent offenders with mental illness. The objective is to develop a judicially supervised program to divert individuals with mental illness from the criminal justice system to mental health services."

Since 2008, Michigan has had eight mental health pilot courts, and the initial results have been positive, Young said. She added that findings indicate mental health courts in general tend to prevent jail overcrowding, reduce the cost of providing expensive treatments within the jails, and reduce recidivism rates. Young has already networked with judges, attorneys, doctors, police officers, and mental health professionals who may be willing to participate.

Young works full-time while attending Cooley at night. The scholarship, she said, will allow her the flexibility needed to pursue the development of a mental health court. "I believe this to be a goal worthy of the Kimberly M. Cahill Leadership Memorial Scholarship," she said.

Young is originally from Minden City, Mich., and has been a resident of Shelby Township for several years. She earned her B.S. in Public Administration with a Legal Studies specialization from Ferris State University, where she also participated in FSU's honors and study abroad programs. Young is also a graduate of Ubly High School. She is the daughter of Irene Young and the late Timothy Kennedy.

Published: Mon, Jun 17, 2013