Family Drug Court

The primary mission of the Muscogee County Family Drug Court is to achieve safe and permanent placements for children by addressing the dependency resulting from substance abuse of a parent or caregiver. This mission will be carried out by addressing the comprehensive needs of parents and children through an integrated, court-based and multi-disciplinary team approach that strives to achieve timely decisions, coordinated treatment and ancillary services, judicial oversight, and safe and permanent placements.

The Muscogee County Family Drug Court (FDC), implemented in July 2017, is an accountability court program designed to assist with substance abuse/dependence issues and monitor progress toward recovery and restoration of legal decision making and parenting time privileges. FDC meets every Monday to staff each participant and do status reviews before the Judge.

Individuals are required to participate in a variety of treatment programs designed to address substance use disorders, as well as other needs. The program includes individual and group therapy sessions, as well as participation in sober support meetings. Residential substance abuse treatment and detoxification may also be required.

Participants must attend:

  • treatment;
  • submit to weekly drug screens;
  • attend sober support meetings; and
  • attend all required court sessions.

As participants successfully move through the phases, treatment requirements and supervision will decrease. Visitation with children gradually increase as phase requirements are met.

Family Drug Court Team

The Family Drug Court Team, a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders that includes uses a non-adversarial approach to assist with substance abuse and dependency issues and monitor progress towards recovery and restoration of families. The Family Drug Court team consists of:

  • Judge Andrew C. Dodgen
  • Caitlyn Malone, Coordinator
  • Samantha Cannon, Clerk/Court Director
  • Angela Romero, Family Drug Court Case Manager
  • Atiya Garner, Family Drug Court Case Manager
  • Benjamin Wallace, Special Assistant Attorney General
  • Robert Wilson, Child Advocate Attorney/Guardian Ad Litem
  • Michel Smith, Parent Attorney
  • Charles Barnes, DFCS Social Services Case Manager
  • vacant, Data Entry/Administrative Support
  • Stephanie Redmond, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Representative
  • Lisa Lavalle, New Horizon Midtown Recovery
  • Dr. Andrew Cox, Clinical and Program Evaluator
  • Kelsi Redmond, Judicial Citizen Review Panel Representative
  • Rachel Snipes, Family Center of Columbus
Incentives and Sanctions

As participants successfully progress in FDC, they may receive incentives. The purpose of an incentive is to give a tangible and positive acknowledgment from the team that the participants is meeting the requirements of the program and demonstrating positive behavior changes.

Incentives can include:

  • applause in the courtroom;
  • verbal acknowledgment from the Judge;
  • a decrease in required court appearances
  • gift cards to local retailers; or
  • sobriety gifts.

A sanction is a consequence for failure to meet FDC requirements. The objective of imposing sanctions is to not only remind participants of the need to be in full compliance, but also to help participants stay engaged and encouraged to continue working through the program with the goal of graduation.

Examples of sanctions include but are not limited to:

  • reprimand from the Judge;
  • increased court appearances
  • community services hours
  • essay writing
  • Jail time, and
  • termination from the program.
SAMHSA Grant Funding

In October 2018, the Muscogee County Family Drug Court was awarded a $1.65 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) five-year enhancement and expansion award. Family Drug Court sought the grant to expand services and increase capacity in the Family Drug Court to address the recurring issue of substance abuse in dependency cases and increase family reunifications. In partnership with New Horizon's Behavior Health, the Court will provide, HIV Rapid Testing, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), and General Education Diploma (GED) testing.

The grant will also fund recovery support services. Recovery support services are individualized supports designed to assist an individual to remain in recovery and may include job training, coaching or other employment services; life skills training and wellness classes; enhancement of natural supports; transportation assistance; and are based on an individual's demonstrated needs. This funding request for Recovery Support Services is ancillary to the Recovery Support Services, such as Peer Mentoring, which would be provided by the Treatment Provider. These requests for Recovery Support Services would be made to and approved by the FDC Case manager and FDC Project Director.

In addition to those enhancements, the grant provides for an increase in the number of Family Drug Court participants by 35 individuals per year and serving a total of 175 participants over the five year grant period.

All of these enhancements work to create a better-rounded program targeted at moderate to high risk/need parents and their families, including those with opioid dependence.

With the funds, the Juvenile Court is able to expand services to an additional 35 participants per year, for a total of 175 over the life of the grant. Funding was also provided to bring Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) training to Columbus. The first session of training was held January 28-31, 2019.