Budget cuts could put Family Drug Court in jeopardy - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Budget cuts could put Family Drug Court in jeopardy

HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) - As lawmakers go over the state budget, judiciary officials are watching closely. Employees are worried more cuts could put its 11 treatment courts in jeopardy.

The courts go beyond the criminal system to help people suffering from mental illness, abuse or addiction. Here's a look at one court that helps not just patients, but their children as well.

Jamison and Lee Ann Bradley are celebrating an important anniversary this month. They've been clean and sober for five years. "Marijuana, drinking, but we preferred to use ice mostly," says Jamison.

When their first son, JJ, was born in 1995, he tested positive for crystal methamphetamine. That's when Child Protective Services got involved. "JJ had no muscle tone, his retinas were fully dialated," says Lee Ann.

It took Jamison and Lee Ann three years to finish the program. But sobriety didn't last long. Even the birth of their second son, Tony, didn't stop them from using.

"A lot of times my children never went to school because we were too tired to get up or we didn't have enough gas money to make it," says Lee Ann.

In 2004 Family Drug Court stepped in, so instead of a criminal sentence, they got an intense schedule of treatment and therapy. Their progress was closely monitored by a case manager and a judge.

"Every Friday we had to go to court," Lee Ann recalls. "We had to get on the bus to get downtown. We had to be on time. We had to make this effort work."

"As you become stronger, longer off drugs, we can assess whether you can be safe to return your children," says Family Court judge Bode A. Uale.

The court sees up to 45 families at a time. Once they're clean and sober, the court helps with education, transitional housing and job placement. The goal is to show parents how to stand on their feet so they don't fall back into the system.

"(It) really opened my eyes. It really opened me up and you know, told me it's not worth it no more," says Jamison.

Family Drug Court has a 94 percent success rate. The national rate for regular probation is just 50 percent.

"It kind of breaks the cycle," says Judge Uale, "and have them become healthy and stay healthy. And their children follow the role modeling of their parents."

Jamison and Lee Ann are living proof it works. Both hold steady jobs now. They also started their own clean and sober house, every day using their own experiences to help others.

"Seeing other women reunified with their families, just the transition, allowing us guys to be a part of that, is an awesome gift," says Lee Ann.

Family drug court needs close to $10,000 to treat one person, but supporters say the long-term benefits are worth much more.

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