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New grant funding to expand family drug court in Bedford County

New grant funding to expand family drug court in Bedford County

Only $3 for 13 weeks

A federal grant will allow for expansion of a Bedford County program to keep together families who have been devastated by drug abuse.

Horizon Behavioral Health is one of many agencies that have teamed up since November 2018 to provide the Family Treatment Drug Court program in Bedford County, through the county’s Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court presided over by Judge R. Louis Harrison.

The program aims to prevent separation of families because of substance abuse among parents and pushes therapeutic methods to fight that abuse. In recent years, Bedford County officials have noted an influx of children and families passing through the doors of the courthouse or Department of Social Services who are struggling with drugs, often methamphetamine.

A $1.9 million grant, administered during the course of five years by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the federal government, will provide for three new positions dedicated to the program and allow its capacity to grow from 17 people served at one time to 40 people.

Paul Baldwin supervises two case managers from the Bedford County Department of Social Services who’ve been working with the participants — parents whose children would remain in foster care or could be adopted — almost every day. Since the program started, he said it’s moved “very fast.”

Three parents already have graduated from the program, he said, and two more are doing extremely well and could graduate in the next few weeks. The coronavirus pandemic has slowed progression somewhat, he said, causing meetings to be less frequent.

Those post-graduates still are engaged with the drug court team, and one is leading AA meetings now, he said.

“It’s really been a positive in our community,” he said. “It’s been a lot of really hard work but we’ve seen a lot of good things from it.”

Baldwin said DSS assigned a prevention worker to the first 10 cases in the program, then when the Bedford County Board of Supervisors saw success with those first 10 families, DSS hired a second case manager devoted to the program. Now, the SAMHSA grant will provide for a third member of his team — all of them devoted to the various needs of a parent and their family as they work toward graduating.

“It really is a tag team,” he said.

On the treatment side, Horizon Behavioral Health has tasked one of its case managers with assessing program participants’ recovery along the way. The grant will provide for a new caseworker who’ll be dedicated to the program, along with a dedicated therapist.

Jennifer Smith Ramey, outpatient program manager with Horizon, said participants thus far have been meeting with various therapists, and devoting one to the drug treatment court program will allow that person to get to know the participants and their needs better.

“The goal there is to use our evidence-based model … to help our clients replace their drug use with healthy and positive activities and behaviors,” she said.

Horizon will also use some of the grant funding to purchase a van dedicated to use for the program. Smith Ramey said transportation is a consistent need for participants, and it’ll be used to take them to their appointments, hearings and to work or schooling, since later stages of the program require that.

Lastly, Smith Ramey said the grant will allow the team to contract with an external evaluator who’ll be able to assess and quantify the program’s success.

Baldwin and Smith Ramey said they’re hoping to have the positions filled and start taking even more cases by Aug. 1.

Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

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