Archived Story

Treatment grants exceed $1 million

Published 4:52pm Monday, November 5, 2012


CASSOPOLIS — Cass County commissioners Nov. 1 established a budget for year one of a three-year, $750,000 substance abuse and mental health services grant awarded to Family Treatment Court.

“With this $750,000 and a $300,000 grant about two months ago, that’s $1,050,000,” Judge Susan Dobrich said. “We’re going to do some cool things with this grant. Working with Western Michigan University, we’re going to train medical professionals on how to deal with children, trauma and substance abuse. We can provide a tremendous amount of services.”

In fact, Dr. Mark Sloane of Portage, formerly of Dowagiac, will be a training provider.

Social worker Dr. Barb House wrote the original $450,000 Drug Court grant and another $400,000 after that, plus several from the state for more than $1 million for Family Court, a drug court grant for Fourth District Court and now these grants for $1 million.

“She’s done a tremendous service for this community,” Dobrich said, introducing to the county board another partner, Kathy Emans, Woodlands Behavioral Healthcare Network executive director. Woodlands is a CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) agency and Cass County’s “primary treatment people.”

“If we’re able to provide appropriate substance abuse treatment, abusers, hopefully, won’t be back in the system again,” Dobrich said. “It’s also a way of dealing with jail overcrowding, which is a constant problem. Treatment gets people out of jail earlier and, if successful, we can close out the case.”

As a collaborative effort, Dobrich said participants also include DHS (state Department of Human Services), the courts, law enforcement, the Department of Corrections and Prosecutor Victor Fitz’s office.

Cass County maintains three such courts, Adult Treatment Court, Family Treatment Court and District Court’s Sobriety Court for drunk driving misdemeanors.

“There’s a lot of common ground on this,” Fitz said. “Everyone wants a safer community. There are really two ways to do that. Put them in prison for as long as possible, but that’s very expensive. If you can get a plea, so much the better because Family Treatment Court is there for the kids and they’re not committing crimes. One of the great things about the program is the monitoring and drug tests to hold their feet to the fire. Their options are get clean or go to prison. We’re approaching adequate drug treatment opportunities. Most counties don’t have anything like this.”

House said another strong motivator for offenders can be trying to regain custody of their children.

“Termination of parental rights is a pretty huge hammer,” Dobrich agreed. “I think it’s a good model for families in felony court. We’re looking at the moms, the dads, the kids, the grandparents — the whole support system. Substance abuse runs in families, so that’s what they go back to.”

House said intake questioning often reveal parents introduce their kids to substance abuse.

“Meth(amphetamine) is even more generational. We had a daughter in jail with her mom for cooking meth together for the income.”

“We’ve seen more of those in the last couple of years than ever before,” Fitz said.

Fitz’s chief assistant prosecutor, Frank Machnik, devotes a day and a half per week to work with drug courts.



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