Treatment Court Changes Lives

in Blog
April 18, 2016

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After getting a DUI because of her alcohol addiction and at risk of losing her three children to foster care, a young woman was desperately searching for help. She knew she had to get her life back on track and heal both herself and her broken family. After she struggled to find help due to her lack of medical coverage, she was open to any services that could help.

Not sure where to turn, Shawna was offered the chance to attend intensive treatment and rehabilitation in a Weld County collaborative program called Family Treatment Court.

Partnering with Weld County Judicial District Courts, Human Services, and the county attorney’s office, North Range offers Drug and Family Treatment Courts — services that offer treatment and rehabilitation to those involved with the criminal justice system because of their addiction.

This intensive treatment and rehabilitation program helps people like Shawna become-and remain–drug-free.

Treatment Court programs are much more intensive than most addiction treatment approaches. Clients attend nine hours a week of group and individual therapy in our offices and at home, receive drug and alcohol testing, and receive other wrap-around services such as referral to housing. They meet with their court coordinators, therapist, DHS caseworker, guardian ad Litem, court-appointed attorney, and magistrate, receiving encouragement and strong feedback if they not progressing. Family Treatment Court is designed to last one year, while Adult Treatment Court is an 18-24 month program.

Heather Allen, who has been involved with Treatment Courts for three years as a court coordinator, says that it “helps people make a life-long change.” This program has graduated over 100 people in the past seven years. Heather adds, “Our clients are usually desperate and overwhelmed by the system, the consequences they face, and the mistakes they’ve made. Often, they face the loss of their children as well. Trapped in the cycle of addiction, most are habitual offenders.”

According to Kathyrn Warner, a North Range clinician and Certified Addiction Counselor, most of the clients are victims of past trauma. For people who struggle with substance abuse, PTSD is one of the common dual diagnoses. Among women with substance use disorders, 30-59% have PTSD, while 11%-38% of men struggle with it. This is why Kathryn and other therapists find that mental health treatment such as DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is often successful, as well as EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), along with intensive addiction treatment – knowing that the trauma and the addiction must be treated together. DMT and EMDR therapies help clients address the acute psychological distress caused by past trauma by accepting and moving beyond rather than struggling with uncomfortable and distressing thoughts. Treatment also focuses on learning and using healthy coping skills so that clients can stop using their old coping approaches-drugs and/or alcohol. This multi-treatment approach, plus the constant feedback and encouragement, are proven ways to help people with criminal and or drug issues avoid prison and other serious consequences.

Collaboration with community partners makes all the difference. Shawna says that “all the people involved in her program were in constant contact, which made treatment so much easier. I did not have to contact five different people when I had questions and needed answers. I had a peer mentor mom, and being able to see someone who had graduated was impactful in that the goal of sobriety and reclaiming our lives was not just something we spoke of, we could see it right in front of us.”

Aftercare groups for graduates help keep them on track. Heather says that many of the graduates also “pay it forward” by mentoring and supporting others in the program.

Shawna pays it forward in other ways. After successfully completing Family Treatment Court and enrolling in college to pursue a degree in psychology, Shawna set her eyes on a Peer Specialist position at North Range because of her experience in Treatment Court. Shawna completed her Peer Specialist training in September of 2015 and is now working as a Peer Specialist in North Range Crisis Support Services.

Not only do treatment courts address drug and alcohol abuse, they can significantly improve family relationships, reduce crime, and save taxpayers money.

  • Children of parents involved in treatment courts spend significantly less time in out-of-home placements such as foster care, and family reunification rates are 50% higher for them and their children.
  • Studies show an average cost savings ranging from more than $4000 to more than $1200 per client – due in part to reduced prison costs, reduced revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization.
  • For every Federal dollar invested in Drug Court, $4.30 is leveraged in state funding.

Magistrate Randall Lococo has been involved in Weld family treatment courts for about 5 years, and says, “When the courts take the time to work in such an intense way with the families, the outcomes are likely to be better. It is a privilege to work in a problem-solving collaborative that helps people stay out of the system and puts families back together.”

Citations:
“The Facts on Drugs and Crime in America,” National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
“The Link between PTSD and Substance Use,” from Seeking Safety, by Lisa Najavits.