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Hon. Bonnie Hellums, Houston

Judge Bonnie Crane Hellums (Ret.) never intended to be a judge. She was always interested in mental health issues, so she got a B.A. from SMU in psychology and religion. She then got a master’s degree from University of Illinois in counseling and guidance, higher education administration, and rehabilitation counseling with persons with quadriplegia and paraplegia. Following that, she became the head of Women’s Housing and Women’s Counselor at the University of Houston for three years. Judge Hellums was then given then the opportunity to move to Rice University as the functional equivalent of the Dean of Students and Foreign Student Advisor. She spent 15 years at Rice (having two children during that time), but the last three of those years, she attended law school at South Texas College of Law at night.

Judge Hellums practiced law for 10 years before running for and being elected to the 247th District Court bench in Harris County. As a family court judge, Judge Hellums witnessed the presence of mental health issues daily. She acquired certifications as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Advanced Addiction Counselor, and Licensed Chemical Dependence Counselor. During the 20 years she served, Judge Hellums started the only family drug court (Family Intervention Court) and then added the Infant and Toddler’s Court for wrap around services for children of persons with substance abuse problems. This provided an excellent opportunity to combine the mental health and legal trainings. There were many families that have reunited during the 17 years since its inception. Also, during this time, Judge Hellums enjoyed serving on the Supreme Court Permanent Judicial Commission on Children Youth and Families.

Since retiring from the bench in 2014, Judge Hellums continues to serve as a visiting judge, as a mediator and arbitrator and on numerous boards involving drug treatment and mental health.