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February 23, 2013

Dual drug and mental health court assists recovery

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Baldwin County Adult Treatment Court Collaborative (ATCC) serves the community by addressing individuals with substance abuse, mental health or co-occurring disorders that have committed a crime. This joint judicial, law enforcement and treatment service program improves public safety and community health by rehabilitating participants into productive citizens.

“I think we are all learning how to work together with a community-based program that we've really never had. It's been a tremendous link between the jail, the courts, and River Edge,” Sheriff Bill Massee said. “We hope to help more and more families as it progresses. Baldwin County really needed the mental health component in the ATCC.”

The substance abuse court covering the eight-county Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit expanded to include mental health thanks to a three year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant awarded in Sept. 2011. Funding equals just under $400,000 per year for the award period.

State funding of $95,000 and a portion of Drug and Alcohol Treatment county fines and fees contribute as well. The SAMHSA money primarily backs treatment services not judicial operations.

Baldwin County, in association with River Edge Behavioral Health Center, was one of just 11 applicants receiving the SAMHSA funding nationally.

ATCC project director Amy Michaud said part of the grant is data collection to prove these accountability courts are worth the money.

Evaluators analyze an individual's change from the entry survey compared to several months within the treatment process.

The enhanced drug court is considered a pilot combination of both substance abuse and mental issues.

“That's the pilot project to see whether this braided funding has better outcomes than the existing courts,” Michaud said.

Mental health patients don't pay for their treatment, while substance abusers are assessed a fee.

“We don't hinder progress because they are unable to make their payments,” Michaud said.

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