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Sullivan County To Pilot State's First Family Treatment Court

Patrick Feller/ Flickr Creative Commons

Sullivan County will be the first county in New Hampshire to establish a new family treatment court.

The county will use a $1.75 million federal grant to build a program to bring together services for children and families experiencing abuse and neglect and those impacted by substance use disorder or mental illness.

Judge Susan Ashley said that family treatment court is different than drug court.

“It’s not a crime that starts the issue, it’s a child protection issue,” she said. "It isn’t a prosecutor and defense lawyer. It’s a DCYF attorney, it’s a child social worker. There’s a parent attorney, a guardian ad litum for the child.”

The goal, Ashley said, isn’t an alternative sentence, but to “achieve better outcomes for a child and the family of that child” through earlier access to substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

Family treatment courts offer a case manager that works with service providers for parents and children. In addition to addiction treatment, the court will also connect families with housing and technology support.

John Yazinksi, a judge for Claremont’s Family Court, said that bringing services together is essential when working with complex cases.

“The more often I see the parents, and the parents see that the court is supportive and really desiring to get the child reunited with the parent, the better the parent does in treatment.”

New Hampshire is one of the last states in the country to have one of these programs. It is expected to be up and running next year. 

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Daniela is NHPR's reporter in the Upper Valley and Monadnock regions. She also leads NHPR's Spanish language news initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? You can email her at dallee@nhpr.org.

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