Butler County family drug court gets $2.1 million boost

The Butler County Family Treatment Drug Court has received a $2.1 million federal grant to expand its services.

The resurrected drug court — funding fizzled for the previous specialty court in 2012 — will eventually be able to help 45 to 60 people who have lost custody of their children due to serious drug addictions.

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The court will get approximately $425,000 annually for five years, according to Butler County Juvenile Court Magistrate Pat Wilkerson, who runs the family drug court.

The money will allow the court to eventually expand to three or four dockets — each docket can handle 15 to 20 people.

Those who participate in Butler County’s family drug court would have regular meetings with magistrates and judges, frequent drug testing, wrap around programs to foster success and access to drug addiction treatment services.

“The biggest thing that (this grant) provides is additional monies for supportive services for our clients,” Wilkerson said. “Recovery support specialists and a program called Celebrating Families, which is a program the children do with their parents.”

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Wilkerson currently has five clients on the docket she presides over every Thursday.

Butler County Juvenile Court Judge Ron Craft says Butler and Montgomery counties are the only two counties in the state to receive the federal money.

He said the specialized court works.

“I was the drug court judge (in 2012) and I can tell you that my experience was that we saved 50 percent of the families that were otherwise going to lose permanent custody because of the drug court,” Craft said.

Because the opiate epidemic is so pervasive here and it has touched juveniles as well, the court also plans to add a juvenile drug docket in early 2018, according to Court Administrator Rob Clevenger.

“The offenses they’re committing or their behavior is related to the fact that they are using heroin, and that really is a concern to us,” he said. “So what the juvenile drug court docket is about is a response to really getting out in front of that issue.”

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The drug court also received state funding from the 21st Century Cures grant. The juvenile drug court is sharing a pool of $273,000 over two years with the felony drug court, according to Julie Payton with the mental health and addiction services board.

That money is designed to help people break down barriers to success.

“They are active in treatment, they are participating in treatment, potentially they are participating in a job training program,” Payton said “But it’s required they have for example some steel toed work boots, which are fairly expensive. So they can utilize some of the funds to pay for that.”

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