Judge Mary Morgan on reaching out to the mentally ill 

Mary Morgan is one of four people who will be honored with a Heroes and Hearts award Feb. 10. The San Francisco General Hospital Foundation honors individuals who provide inspiration through community service. Morgan is a San Francisco Superior Court judge who has been instrumental in a program that helps mentally ill people in the judicial system.

How did you get nominated for Hearts and Heroes?

Not really sure how I made it. It was a complete surpise to me that I was given this award. I’m thrilled by it.

What is the Behaviorial Health Court?

I have presided several years over the BHC, which oversees mentally ill people and instead of prosecuting them in the traditional mode, puts them in housing and gives them treatment, medical and whatever services they need to live safely and securly in the community.

How do crime victims react to this type of treatment of the suspects?

Victims are assured that something is being done and reassured because then this type of crime won’t happen to someone else.

What does this program mean to you?

I feel like this type of program ... gets to the root of the problems of people who are committing crimes, instead of letting people cycle in and out of the justice system.

How does San Francisco rank in dealing with the mentally ill?

I think San Francisco is a little ahead of the curve on this. There are other successful courts of this type in California and there is a task force created by former [Supreme Court] Chief Justice Ron George.

What is the most important thing to know about people in this program?

People are very complex, and there is not just one thing that defines them. Mentally ill people are not scary and are no less deserving of respect. We are all fundamentally more like each other than we are different.

Who inspires you?

I think two people who are inspiring to me are Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. I think those two people had an incredible belief in nonviolent action and a penchant to really make the world become a better place.

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Steve Drumwright

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