Butler County family drug court to add counseling service

Butler County Magistrate Pat Wilkerson presides over Butler County’s Family Treatment Drug Court at the Butler County Historic Courthouse. DENISE G. CALLAHAN/STAFF
Butler County Magistrate Pat Wilkerson presides over Butler County’s Family Treatment Drug Court at the Butler County Historic Courthouse. DENISE G. CALLAHAN/STAFF

The Butler County Family Treatment Drug Court is about to move into its next phase by seeking bids for the “Celebrating Families” family counseling service.

The family drug court now has 11 clients who meet with Juvenile Court Magistrate Pat Wilkerson every Thursday. Soon the parents will have another tool to help them on their road to recovery and reunification with their children, officials said.

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The “Celebrating Families” family counseling service is “an evidence based program designed for families where at least one parent has significant substance abuse disorders,” Wilkerson said. “So it’s perfect for our clientele. We used Celebrating Families in our previous program and it was very well received.”

Wilkerson said the program will likely cost about $72,000.

For a number of years the juvenile court handled drug addiction cases through the use of an administrative hearing officer. Then the court received a five-year $2.5 million federal grant. From 2007 to 2012 the county was able to operate the family drug court until the funding stopped.

The court received another five-year, $2.1 million grant this past fall.

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Wilkerson said this is the first of three contracts to be employed by the court that makes it a unique program. She said this one brings the parents and children together for a meal and then counseling.

“They have age appropriate discussions that are similar to the topic the parent is doing,” Wilkerson said. “So they might be talking to the parents about setting limits and they might talk to the kids about following rules, putting it in terms they understand.”

The next two pieces to come online will be case management and recovery support specialists. Case management entails helping the clients navigate systems, assisting with transportation and referring to services outside of of drug court, like getting IDs, birth certificates and applying for and apartment hunting.

Wilkerson said the recovery specialist services are similar to case management, but with a little extra.

“It is somebody who is familiar with their issue who can help re-frame the issues people are having,” she said, like asking how they would have handled an issue when they were using and what is different now.

Julie Gilbert, assistant director of Children Services, said the drug court is already showing signs of success.

“I think it is making a difference in the level of support they are receiving from the different agencies,” Gilbert said. “I think that is extremely important in their efforts to reunify with their children and gain sobriety and maintain it.”

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Juvenile Court Administrator Rob Clevenger said they are hoping the Butler County commissioners will give them the funding to add a docket early next year. Another docket would mean another afternoon of Wilkerson’s time, so they would need a part-time magistrate to handle her juvenile court dockets.

“We know we have a need to expand this docket,” Clevenger said. “If we were to expand and go beyond one docket we’ll need to bring in an additional magistrate… We continue to get referrals. There is going to be a point where we’re not going to be able to manage those cases within the Thursday dockets.”

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