“We are excited and flattered to be selected,” said 7th Probate Court Judge Fred Mulhauser. “This is an opportunity to get better at what we do and a well-deserved recognition for all the hard work done by the members of our recovery program team.”
The Charlevoix and Emmet County recovery teams operate under the direction of Mulhauser and were chosen to participate in the national effort by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Courts along with five additional courts. The other courts are from New Mexico, Maryland, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Idaho and represent a mix of urban, suburban and rural communities.
Mulhauser said the local program’s success is due to its non-traditional approach to recovery: It addresses all aspects of the minor’s life to encourage behavior change. The program emphasizes education, treatment, family involvement and accountability in a supportive, incentive-based court structure.
At any one time there may be 15 to 25 participants between the two counties with youth coming in and graduating at an individualized rate based on their own performance.
“Our team members meet weekly at noon to discuss every kid’s progress and to tweak their individual program to recognize and support them. Then at five o’clock, after normal court hours, we have a general review and accountability session with all the juvenile participants, their families, and all the team members,” Mulhauser said.
The 7th Probate Court handles juvenile cases in both local counties. According to the judge, there is a separate recovery team in each county and although each is somewhat different, team members include a substance abuse therapist, probation officer, program coordinator, defense attorney, prosecutor, school representative, court administrator, mental health counselor, sheriff deputy and a physician.
Over the next several years, the national center will be studying the programs selected, provide input and technical assistance, and will share aspects of each program with other participating courts with the goal of developing national best practice standards and improving national performance.
Mulhauser said that even though the local program had the lowest recidivism rate for juvenile drug courts in Michigan at 8.3 percent, he and the teams still aim to improve as a result of participating in the NCJFC project.
“I think we have a lot to contribute as a result of our experience, but we also stand to gain from working with other courts to learn and enhance treatment techniques and approaches that have a proven track record,” he noted.
One direct benefit of the national effort will be the court’s access to assessment tools that help focus on an individual’s needs. “It is so important to identify individual issues early in treatment, and this is particularly critical for the young substance abuser,” Mulhauser emphasized, “because we really don’t have any time to waste.”