Eleanor Garber, Jefferson Circuit Court, Family Division Judge is surprised and disappointed that Kentucky state funding has been eliminated for her cutting edge program designed to treat drug addicts so their children can be reunited with them, the Courier-Journal reports.
"Drug Court officials said yesterday that they had thought that after meetings last summer, the state Administrative Office of the Courts would request that the General Assembly allocate funding for both the family court program and a separate Adult Drug Court program in Jefferson County.
Instead, the AOC, which manages Kentucky's judicial system, requested funds for only the adult drug court -- and even that was funded only for the 2008 fiscal year, and not this year. "I was blown away," Garber said. "For reasons unknown to us, they did not ask for funds for our drug court."
Jason Nemes, general counsel to Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, said he wasn't involved in the meetings last summer and didn't know of any agreements made to fund the family court program.
He said the AOC focused on persuading the General Assembly to allocate money to expand the adult drug court program statewide.
"It was a calculation we made to do the best we could," Nemes said. "… I don't want to say one is more successful than the other but adult drug court is maybe more measurable."
Nemes added it's possible that funding may yet be found for the family drug court program in Jefferson County, which he agreed has been successful.
"It's premature to say it's going to close down," Nemes said. "There may be something that can be done. We're not sure at this point."
But Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze, whose office helps run the local program, said:
"We are going to continue to fight the fight, but the likelihood of success is remote."
Officials with the Family Court drug program also complained that no AOC officials told them they wouldn't receive funding this year until a few months ago.
"Why didn't they let us know earlier?" Garber asked. "I would have done anything to try to find other sources."
Nemes said he didn't know about any communication problems and noted that "we're not at cross purposes" with Jefferson County officials."
Kentucky Law Blog comments on the story and links to the AOC budget through 2005. "With some programs being slashed within the AOC, then the question is how does a member of the public provide input to our Administrative Office of the Courts on what should or should be done and how should those priorities be affected?
Family Drug Court supporters are surely going to scrutinize the AOC's spending habits now that it has struck home and slashed a program with much local support within the courts and by the public."
Comment: Surely the heads of the executive and judicial branches can explain why funding for this program which had been jump started by a $1.2M federal grant was not sought from the legislature. Child protective services and the successful parents are surely owed an answer. ""There's lots of people that complain that we don't do enough to reunify families, and then a program like this gets cut," Sky Tanghe, a social worker with the state Child Protective Services, said of the family drug court. "To see this not available anymore is quite a shame." A mom helped by the family drug court agreed. "Without the program, I would never know that I have a disease, that I suffer from drug addiction," she said. "I learned how to live, how to be responsible."
UPDATE: The Kentucky Law Blog reports on the Courier-Journal August 8,2006 editorial and links to an AOC 2004 press release bragging about the success of drug courts.