Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jun 2004
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Copyright: 2004 The Albany Herald Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: Brian Russell


Program organizers highlight the strides made in the treatment of
accused criminals with substance abuse and mental health issues.

ALBANY - Reflecting on its first full calendar year of operation,
program organizers for a groundbreaking rehabilitation program for
criminal offenders say its mental health participants are again on the

The substance abuse clients, however, have proven to be the "tough nut
to crack," said Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss.

"It's the nature of the addiction," Goss said, referring to clients
not wanting long-term help for their substance abuse problem.

The Mental Health/ Substance Abuse Treatment Court program has taken
34 people facing criminal charges into its probation program, which
offers a tailored treatment program to address his or her underlying
issues of mental health or substance abuse problems.

None of those with mental health issues have offended again, said
Goss, hoping not to jinx the results.

Of those with substance abuse problems - which includes people with
mental health and substance abuse problems - five were discharged from
the program as "unsuccessful," according to the program's report.

"All either refused long-term drug treatment services that were put in
place or had multiple drug relapses that indicated an unwillingness by
the person to try and deal with his/her drug issues," according to the

Despite some clients having relapses and falling out of the program,
coordinator Queen Hall said they have reached their goal.

"What we wanted was to decrease the behavior," Hall said, referring to
people with addictions to alcohol or drugs. "And we have reached that

But addiction to drugs such as cocaine is so strong it is impossible
to completely eradicate the problem, Hall said.

In the upcoming year, Goss said the program is seeking to deal with
homelessness issues, expand outreach for teenagers and expand
long-term drug treatment options - especially for women.

While referrals to the program typically come from the jail, probation
officers, attorneys and judges, Hall said individuals who have family
or friends who could use this help can contact her through the
Dougherty County Jail, and she will help them find the right assistance.

"What we have is people grasping for answers," Goss said. "We'll put
them in contact with the right agency."
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