Court programs hunt grants

LaGRANGE – Representatives from the accountability courts went before the Troup County Commission recently to request permission to apply for three grants to keep the set of courts running.

The accountability courts are under non-profit status, and they are currently funded largely through a state grants, though the county does provide 10 percent in matching funds which is expected to total $15,000 this year. County funding will likely come from the cost of drug screenings through the county drug lab.

The accountability courts aim to improve the odds of certain groups successfully “making it” through treatment.

“The basic idea around accountability courts is we take a serious issue like mental health… and drugs and alcohol, and we put a lot of resources into those people,” said Judge Michael Key. “We serve them well. These are very intense programs in terms of court review and staffing in terms of the services that are offered to them. We demand a lot of these folks, and these are very successful programs.”

Family treatment courts are one of the subset of courts that the non-profit works with – along with felony adult drug court and DUI/drug court – and Key claims positive results for the program so far.

“Families come to the court where children are at risk of being removed, or have been removed and placed into foster care because of drugs and alcohol,” said Key. “We’ve not had an amazing amount of success historically with those kinds of cases with just the traditional approach.”

Because of the lack of success through traditional means, the accountability courts are doing something different by adding an extra layer of accountability for those struggling without a support system.

“Substance abuse is really a double whammy when you talk about poverty because a lot of our children live in poverty, and a lot of the areas where our children live are high drug areas, so it is all around them,” said Key. “It is in their parents. It is in their families. It is a huge challenge for all of us. So, with a family treatment court model we would expect to put about 25 percent of our current foster care cases into the family treatment court. Now in the family treatment court, we make sure they are appropriate for the court. The broad range of services we provide in terms of individual counseling and research based, evidence based groups and other treatment modalities, and we screen them every other week.”

Normally, parents only complete dependency cases 32 percent of the time, but under the program, there is a 69 percent completion rate.

“Not only is that families back together more quickly, but it is saving state and local dollars as well,” said Key. “… We deal with the problem in such a way that there is less relapse and a greater chance of no reoccurrence of maltreatment.”

The accountability courts are attempting to cut costs by consolidating positions in anticipation of state grants – which are designed to get accountability courts set up in new areas – running out, at which time the courts would switch to county funding. Among the consolidation measures is a decision to share a coordinator with Carrol County and consolidating the director of the drug court, DUI court and family court into one position.

To report child abuse or neglect, call 1-855-GA-CHILD or dial 911 for an immediate emergency.

Tax Commissioner Shane Frailey also requested to be able to hire a tax and tag agent to replace a retiree at the same meeting.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. at 200 Ridley Ave.