Butler County approves funding to address backlog of cases for in-home visit program

HAMILTON — A watchdog frozen by court backlogs got a boost in Butler County: Commissioners signed off on $500,000 worth of American Relief Plan Act funding that will allow probate and domestic violence courts to hire staff for “essential functions.”

It is personal for Probate Court Judge John Holcomb.

“They just need a little help from the court,” Holcomb said.

His mother-in-law died fighting Alzheimer’s Disease. So, as leader of the court charged with guarding the well-being of seniors and adults unable to care for themselves, Holcomb said his team’s in-home visit program needs a quick fix.

COVID-19 pandemic protocols suspended the program for six months. That led to a two-year backlog in visits. The county had just one investigator to handle the task. In January, the court had 2,648 incoming guardianships with another 140 pending, according to state records.

While the court applied for an ARPA, Holcomb’s team hired a former intern away from a nonprofit to take on investigative duties. The two investigators are working to catch up, hold caretakers accountable and make sure the vulnerable are alive and well.

“I can tell you with adding this second investigator position we are ensuring that the needs of our senior citizens are being met,” he said.

County commissioners approved a $424,068 grant award for Butler County’s Domestic Relations Court Monday. It plans to hire a magistrate/mediator to ease the rising number of custody cases. The funding will cover the position for two years.

The $183,783 grant for probate court will pay for the second investigator and a file clerk for two years.

“That is going to take the burden off our local taxpayers of funding this,” Holcomb said.

By the time the grants expire, court administrators hope to have backlogs cleared or see a county budget big enough to keep all hands on deck.

WCPO is a content partner of the Journal-News.

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