Oakland Adult Treatment Court continues to make a difference

Helen appeared haggard, so much so, that she looked much older than her forty-four years. But then again, why wouldn't she? She had been experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms coming off of heroin in the Oakland County Jail and it was evident that if took a lot out of her.

But not everything...she surprisingly seemed almost buoyant in her attitude; as if a weight had been lifted. While she complained of the horror of her physical withdrawal, she displayed an almost child-like excitement about being involved in the Sixth Circuit Adult Treatment Court. For someone who had over a twenty year history of abusing not only heroin, but also crack cocaine and prescription medications she seemed to be at the point of surrender and was verbal of her desire to fully take on her addiction. When asked if she would have access to reliable transportation to make it to program requirements her determination resonated in her response, "If no one can drive me, I can walk. I walked for my drugs, so I can walk to get my life back." Of course, words are just that, words, and her commitment was yet to be proven.

That was a year ago and Helen just celebrated her one year clean anniversary on March 4, 2010 and is about to graduate from the Adult Treatment Court.

On Wednesday, April 7, at 2 p.m. the Oakland County Adult Treatment Court will hold its twenty-fifth graduation since its inception in August of 2001. The eighty-first thru eighty-sixth graduates (one of them being Helen) will be honored with a ceremony and reception to be held at the Oakland County Commissioners Auditorium attached to the Sixth Circuit Courthouse, located at 1200 North Telegraph Road in Pontiac.

The Adult Treatment Court (ATC) has served 290 participants to date. The ATC is a four-phase intervention program for non-violent, felony offenders who find it difficult to maintain sobriety. Without acceptance into the ATC program these individuals would otherwise be facing a probable sentence of months, if not years, in jail or prison. The program's key elements are, extremely close judicial and community supervision, intense substance-abuse treatment, frequent substance abuse testing and a long-term commitment to program requirements.

The ATC team consists of two judges, Oakland County Circuit Court Joan E. Young presides over the male participants and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Colleen O'Brien presides over the female participants. Additional members of ATC team are a defense attorney, a probation officer, a program coordinator, and various treatment providers. While the ATC meets bi-weekly, the team is in daily contact; intensely monitoring and intervening with the programs participants.

The Adult Treatment Court expects participants to find and maintain employment, consistently participate in treatment, pay court costs, including restitution to the victims of their crimes and of course, take responsibility for the support of their children. Notably, the recidivism rates for graduates of the Adult Treatment Court are 37% lower than felons who never participate in the Adult Treatment Court. Additionally, the cost to Oakland County tax payers since inception for ATC has been approximately $100,000. If not for the ATC, potential cost to the county tax payer to incarcerate these offenders would have been $3,500, 000, a cost savings of $3, 400, 000.

Judge O'Brien notes, "The cost associated with alcohol and drug abusing offenders is staggering. The impact on the substances abusers families is profound. Oakland County Sixth Circuit Court is doing its part through the Adult Treatment Court to address these issues and find solutions that will be mutually beneficial to the defendants, their families, victims and the community at large."

Anyone wishing to make a donation to either the Adult Treatment Court or the Juvenile Drug Court can do so via the RESTORE Foundation and may contact the chambers of Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts at (248) 858-0365.

Published: Fri, Apr 2, 2010