Amanda Henderson had personal reasons for wanting to get into the field of forensic mental health. She had a close relative who found herself at the crossroads where mental health needs and the criminal justice system meet. She saw, up close, the tremendous demand for better training and support for those who intersect with these systems.
“There’s a huge need for people to get into this emerging field of Forensic Mental Health,” she says. “There are so many who need our help.”
After getting her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island, Amanda started searching for a place where she could get the skills and knowledge to enter the field of forensic mental health, a field where the systems of mental health, law enforcement and criminal justice come together. She said Sage offers one of a select few graduate programs. It turned out to be a program that Amanda thrived in, under the guidance of Assistant Professor Kimberly Brayton, Ph.D., J.D., who directs the Forensic Mental Health graduate program at Sage.
After graduation in 2019, Amanda gained entrance into the highly-selective New York State Excelsior Service Fellowship program, an initiative that brings talented recent graduates of law, graduate and professional schools into government service. Sage is one of only 22 schools in the state that can nominate students to become part of the program, and only one of nine schools that is not a law school.
Amanda is doing her two-year fellowship with the state Office of Mental Health, within the Division of Forensic Services. The experience has made her more convinced than ever she’s on the right path. Her goal eventually is to run a Diversion Program in the criminal justice system. These are programs that offer individuals involved in the criminal justice system the chance for rehabilitation, avoiding conviction and beginning to reclaim their lives. They typically focus on those who have experienced mental illness, substance abuse, and/or homelessness.
“I know this career will give me a great sense of accomplishment,” Amanda says. “Whether it be with one individual or all the way on a policy level, I know I will have a positive impact on this field. ”