Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren talks reengineering, reframing, reevaluating

Stephanie Sylvester

Contributing Writer

The conversation with Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren on Jan. 29 went beyond just a conversation. Lerner-Wren engaged in deep conversation with her audience in her attempts to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and the effects it has on our society today. 

Wren is making history as she is the first judge to preside over a mental health court. As a former Broward College student, Lerner-Wren has been proving herself to be a philanthropic alumna as this is her sixth year visiting BC to speak to the students.

The first topic she introduced to the conversation was rapper Logic’s performance at the 2018 Grammy’s Awards show. 

She goes on to describe how he was wearing a hoodie with the “1-800-273-8255” –also the name of the song he performed– suicide hotline number along with his back-up performers who were also wearing messages like “#YouAreNotAlone.” 

An interesting fact she revealed to the audience was the fact that everyone on that stage were suicide survivors. 

“I think what Logic was trying to say is that we really, really need to take care of each other,” said Wren. 

The room struck with immense tension and silence when Lerner-Wren revealed that suicide amongst children and teens has risen to the second leading cause of death in the nation. 

“It is incredibly important that everyone in this room check in with each other,” she said.

She continued the conversation by diving into how she became a mental health judge today. She described it as a road that wasn’t easy, but very rewarding. 

She ensured the audience that the idea of being a judge of a mental health court didn’t just fall into her lap, but she followed her path and adhered to the signs along the way to be able to do what she loves today.

“I knew I really wanted to make the world a better place. I wanted to help people and I had a strong sense of social justice.” 

Junior Bianca Mchenney gained inspiration from Lerner-Wren’s talk about following your path and answering your call. 

“The inspiration I gained from the talk was to follow my dreams and work hard for what I want, and to find a career I will truly be happy with,” said Mchenney. 

As a Child Therapy major, she hopes to achieve making a difference in the kids’ lives she works with by helping and guiding them. 

Wren graduated from Nova Southeastern University and then worked at the South Florida State Psychiatric Hospital for a year and a half before she got a call to be an elected official in Broward County to oversee the mental health awareness and funding in the county. 

When she asked the audience if anyone would want to be an elected official one day, very few raised their hands. 

She reassured the audience to aim high and think about becoming one because you have the power to make positive impacts on the community like she did. 

She concluded the conversation by bringing up other issues that are faced every day in the criminal justice system such as treatment over punishment, rising imprisonment of the mentally ill and therapeutic jurisprudence. 

In 1989, former Attorney Janet Reno was the first to propose and promote treatment over punishment through therapeutic jurisprudence. 

Lerner-Wren said she views her as an inspiration in her efforts to open the first mental health facility and continue to make a way for the mentally ill to receive treatment rather than be imprisoned. 

When asked what is a normal day for her at work by Dr. Richard Bernstein– the psychology club advisor at South Campus– Judge 

Wren went on to say that she reads the arrest affidavit to view the offense, she comes into court to see the individual, she introduces herself and explains the type of court she presides over and then she begins to speak directly to the client about the events that took place and what can be done to provide treatment, housing or any other resources to help elevate the mentally-ill individual. 

Currently, Lerner-Wren also teaches Forensic Psychology to graduate students at NSU. 

She continues to raise awareness of the issues of mental health, the criminal justice system and the availability of resources to help those suffering under the pressures of mental illnesses to be able to live happy and healthy lives.