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Sept. 28, 2005

ULM Partners With New Juvenile Drug Court Program in Multifaceted Approach To Reduce Alcohol/Drug Use and Crime

A far-reaching program designed to reduce youth and family alcohol and drug abuse and crime has been designed by a team of community professionals and is being implemented by the Fourth Judicial District Court under the guidance of Judge Sharon Marchman.

The goal and focus of the Fourth Judicial District Court's "Juvenile Drug Court" is to identify offending youth in Ouachita Parish with substance abuse problems and to assist those individuals and their families in remaining alcohol and/or drug free and free of criminal behavior.

This program, the result of several months of intense planning by a committee of legal, educational and counseling professionals, utilizes a multifaceted approach including: intensive judicial supervision, a specialized docket, frequent urinalysis screenings, intensive traditional and substance-abuse therapeutic intervention, and education to attempt to accomplish these goals thereby strengthening individuals, families, and the community.

According to Judge Marchman, "this committee has undergone extensive training sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Administration and has put forth tremendous professional and personal hours to design the 4th JDC Juvenile Drug Court. As the team leader, it is very rewarding to see their dedication and collaborative efforts for the benefit of our youth in particular and our community in general. I am extremely proud of their efforts which have been awarded by the receipt of Louisiana Supreme Court funding and a federal grant for this program."

"The reason we (the committee) have worked so hard on putting this program together is our personal knowledge that substance abuse is not only draining our community of common resources, such as money and treatment space, but the most valuable resource we are losing is the young people that we depend on for the future," explained committee member John Sanders, Assistant District Attorney for the Juvenile Section. "Instead of preparing a productive life, they are throwing their futures away for a few minutes of a perceived pleasure. The purpose of our juvenile drug court is to help break that cycle and help these youths and their families turn potential tragedy into real success. And in the process our community benefits by having productive citizens instead of adults that contribute nothing to our society."

All youth, under the program, are required to attend school on a full-time basis, or attend an alternate educational program on a full-time basis, such as a technical school or GED program. If the youth is ineligible for school enrollment, he/she will participate in meaningful work or community service for the equivalent of a full-time school week.

According to Judge Marchman, "Treatment is designed for both the juvenile and his/her family." She noted that admission to the program is gained through the legal system via summons, referral, or detention hearing.

To assess the candidates' eligibility for the program, the Assistant District Attorney will conduct a legal screening. The target population includes youth who meet the following criteria:
1. 13-16 years old;
2. have committed a delinquent act (except crimes of violence);
3. are subject to at least 12 months in custody; and
4. have an alcohol or drug problem.

Each drug court client and family will have an individual treatment plan. Types of therapy available include: individual, family, in-home, group, recreational and adventure therapy. The court has awarded a contract for the providing of treatment services to the University of Louisiana at Monroe through its Marriage and Family Therapy Program under Dr. Lamar Woodham.

"This program is a collaborative approach to helping juveniles and their families by utilizing services of the following ULM programs: Marriage and Family Therapy, Community Counseling, Substance Abuse Counseling, School of Business, Criminal Justice, Social Work, Nursing, and Dental Hygiene," said Dr. Woodham.

"A main goal of the therapeutic intervention portion of the juvenile drug court is to utilize the above mentioned therapies as (a) a means of helping the juvenile effect changes in his/her behaviors related to crime, drugs, and alcohol and (b) a means of helping the juvenile's family create a context in which the juvenile can flourish as a non-substance-using youth," Woodham added.

"Our goal and our heartfelt hope is to increase the candidate and the family's chances of successfully completing the program and of becoming and remaining alcohol and drug free--making it more likely that the candidate and the family will not re-involve themselves in the legal system in the future," explained Marchman.

Members of the Juvenile Drug Court Planning Committee include:

Larry Norris, Chief of Court Services for the 4th Judicial District Court; Jana Sutton, Ph.D., LPC, MFT, ULM adjunct professor;
Gary Armstrong, Child Welfare and Attendance Supervisor for the Ouachita Parish School Board; Elizabeth Brown, public defender for the 4th Judicial District Indigent Defender Board; Gloria Monroe, Region 8 Administrator for Office of Addictive Disorders; Eric Butler, Adolescent substance abuse counselor; John Sanders, Assistant District Attorney, Juvenile Section; Mitchell Young, Ph.D., LPC, Clinical Director for the ULM Masters level substance abuse counseling program; Carolyn Lewis, Region 8 Manager for Office of Youth Development; Orlando Davis, Juvenile Probation Officer for Office of Youth Development; Mike Rhodes, Director of Juvenile Services at Green Oaks Detention Center.

Judges from the 4th Judicial Court and the Juvenile Drug Court team welcomed stakeholders and community partners, elected officials, and members of the Louisiana Supreme Court Drug Court Office on Wednesday, September 28, at 1:30 p.m. at the Children's Coalition, 1271 Lamy Lane, Suite K, in Monroe.

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