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Family Drug Treatment Court

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Department of Public Health and Human Services                                              First Judicial District Court

www.dphhs.mt.gov                                                                                               http://courts.mt.gov/dcourt




August 10, 2017

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

   Korie Diehl, First Judicial District / Family Drug Treatment Court Coordinator, 406-457-8809


First Judicial District Court launches Family Drug Treatment Court with $600,000 federal grant

New court will serve Lewis and Clark, Broadwater Counties
Family Drug Treatment Court to serve parents with a substance use disorder whose children have been placed in the child protection system


The Honorable Judge James P. Reynolds of the First Judicial District Court announced today, August 10, the launching of a new Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) serving Lewis and Clark and Broadwater Counties.

Reynolds was joined at special ceremony at the Lewis and County Courthouse by Governor Steve Bullock; Child and Family Ombudsman Traci Shinabarger of the Montana Department of Justice; Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher; and Department of Public Health and Human Service Director (DPHHS) Director Sheila Hogan.

The new FDTC is being funded through a three-year $600,000 federal grant award from the Office of Justice Programs, Department of Justice through the Family Drug Court Implementation and Enhancement Program.

“There are many families the First Judicial District Court serves who are trying desperately to address their alcohol and other drug addiction, while at the same time trying to keep their family together,” Reynolds said. “This model has shown great success nationwide and in Montana, and I’m very optimistic with the additional resources this grant provides that many more families will be helped in the coming years.”

Governor Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox both offered their congratulations.

Governor Bullock said: “We know that drug courts work and we know that the more we treat offenders as potential successes rather than just statistics, the better off our communities and the families involved will be. I applaud Judge Reynolds and the entire team undertaking this for the First Judicial District Court.”

Attorney General Fox said: “Family Drug Treatment Courts have proven to be a successful model in addressing the needs of families by surrounding them with experts using a multidisciplinary team approach. I’m very pleased another FDTC has been added to Montana’s court system, providing yet another tool that can be used to help parents address their substance abuse issues and keep our children safe.”

Reynolds said the new FDTC will serve a maximum of 15 families simultaneously, with impact to about 40 children at any point in time. He said potential candidates will be screened by a team of experts.

Reynolds added the target population to be served is parents with a substance use disorder, or with a co-occurring mental health disorder whose children have been placed in the child protection system as a result of child abuse and/or neglect due to their drug dependence.

The FDTC will utilize a multidisciplinary team approach to assess the family’s situation, devising comprehensive case plans that address the needs of the children and the parents.

The multidisciplinary team will be comprised of alcohol and drug abuse, family and mental health counselors, child protection representatives, experts in early childhood services and FDTC staff that work directly with the family on a weekly basis. “It is set up as an intensive program that aims to hold participants accountable, but also offer encouragement,” Reynolds said. “The bottom line is that we want these parents to be successful, and we’re committed to making it happen.”

The FDTC works with families on four main pillars including health, home, purpose and community. Health includes overcoming or managing one’s drug dependence; home is maintaining a stable and safe place to live; purpose is conducting meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school or volunteerism; and community is having relationships and social networks that provide recovery support and friendship. Participants must regularly report to Reynolds their progress in these areas.

The FDTC focuses on safety and welfare of the child while giving parents tools needed to become sober, responsible caregivers. Each family is assessed to determine services needed that will result in favorable outcomes for both the adults and children.

There are many positive results for parents and children who participate in FDTCs, including higher treatment completion rates, shorter time for children in foster care, higher family reunification rates, lower termination rates of parental rights, fewer CPS petitions after reunification, lower criminal justice recidivism and cost savings per family.

According to DPHHS statistics, about 65% of all open foster care placements for child abuse and neglect indicate parental substance abuse as one of the reasons for removal, with over 45% of all open placements involving methamphetamine.

FDTCs have shown success in Montana. A 2017 report by the Montana Supreme Court Office of Court Administrator analyzed data collected from May 2008 through October 2016. However, the report generally focuses on the time period of November 2012 to October 2016.

The report states:

  • Graduation rates for Montana’s family drug courts from November 2012 to October 2016 is nearly 50% and says the ‘Montana drug court graduation rates (overall) are as good or better than rates found in comprehensive national studies’. However, the report also states that even parents who do not graduate still benefit from participating.
  • Parents who complete substance use disorder treatment are significantly more likely to be reunified with their children, and their children spend considerably fewer days in out-of-home foster care.
  • Participants in FDTCs have also been successful in establishing steady employment. For Montana FDTC graduates, five were employed full-time at admission and 26 were employed at discharge.
  • The average cost to deliver a drug-dependent baby is approximately $62,000 compared to $4,700 to deliver a healthy infant.
  • FDTCs were created to enhance retention in treatment and improve outcomes in child abuse and neglect cases for parents suffering from substance use disorders.

Korie Diehl will serve as the First Judicial District Family Drug Treatment Court Coordinator. Diehl said working successfully with and encouraging families to reach their goals will benefit the next generation. Children of parents with substance use disorders are at an increased risk for developing their own substance use and mental health problems. The key is ensuring parents stay in treatment. “The longer a person stays in treatment, the better the outcome,” she said.

Keeping children and parents connected through supervised visitation is also a key. DPHHS Child and Family Services Division experts say that children and youth who have regular, frequent contact with their families are more likely to reunify and less likely to re-enter foster care after reunification. Visits provide an important opportunity to gather information about a parent’s capacity to appropriately address and provide for their child’s needs, as well as the family’s overall readiness for reunification

Currently, there are four other FDTCs in Montana, including the counties of Yellowstone, Butte-Silver Bow, Missoula and in Poplar on the Fort Peck Reservation.

For information on the First Judicial District Family Drug Court, contact Diehl at 406-457-8810.