Friday, December 22, 2006

Family drug courts are a worthy investment of taxpayer's money

EDITORIAL: Saving drug court
Louisville Courier-Journal, Aug. 8, 2006, pg. A6.

It's long been popular among the conservative elite to beguile voters with the countless ways that taxpayers' money is being squandered on social programs that don't work.

No such allegation can be made, legitimately, about Jefferson County's Family Drug Court. It does work, as long as there's money with which to operate.

Family Court Judge Eleanor Garber, who helped pioneer this approach in 2002, and her colleagues thought they had a deal with the Administrative Office of the Courts, which manages the state's justice system, to include the program in this year's AOC budget request to the General Assembly.

She didn't learn until June 26 that the request never was made. So, with little time to seek alternative funding, the program has been "limping along."

The hope has been that, with the help of two part-time employees, the current class of 25 parents will be able to graduate. But no new applications are being accepted.

The permanent loss of Jefferson County's drug court is simply unacceptable. It has graduated 48 parents, and that means they're off drugs. They're working. They're now considered stable enough to be reuinted with 86 children, who otherwise would be in foster care or in the care of kinfolks at greater expense to taxpayers.

It's worth noting that the only such court funded by the state this year was the one headed by Chief Justice Lambert's wife.

The public can decide for itself whether this is just coincidence.

In any event, Judge Garber emphasizes that these programs aren't in competition. They all do important work, striving to "heal the whole family."

Judge Garber and others are beating the bushes for money to sustain the crucially important work of Jefferson County's Family Drug Court — at least $280,000 to keep it going for another year.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher, lawmakers and justice system managers who may have allowed this significant budgetary oversight to get by them should pay attention now. They should remember that investment in drug court pays both human and financial dividends.

It's easy enough to rage against the drug culture. Doing something about it takes resources. Kentucky leaders who talk the talk about attacking the problem also must walk the walk.


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