For many Massachusetts families, the issue of substance abuse hits home. Parents may struggle to care for their children while working on their own substance abuse issues. At a time when substance abuse has hit a high, Massachusetts families may need extra assistance from the judicial system. This assistance comes in the form of the new Family Drug Court in Massachusetts.
What is it?
Unique to Massachusetts, the Trial Court Department unveiled a Family Drug Court in Massachusetts in 2016. It operates through the Franklin County Probate and Family Court, located in the western part of Massachusetts. Wanting to address the “growing numbers [with] opioid addiction” in western Massachusetts, the Franklin County Probate and Family Court and the Franklin County Opioid Task Force joined together to establish a Family Drug Court to handle the ever-increasing number of court matters relative to family law, custody issues, and parenting where substance abuse is a factor.
How does it work?
The Family Drug Court uses a phased structure, so that as parents with recovery issues move through the phases of their drug abuse treatment, their court appearances are less frequent. A parent is eligible to participate in the Court if their substance use and abuse (including alcohol) “jeopardizes custody of, or parenting time with, their children”. The court allows the parent or parents to seek treatment, and children are entitled to trauma assessments. Any contact between the parent or parents and child or children is allowed, so long as said contact is in the best interest of the child or children.
When a parent or parents complete the drug court phase program, the “court will hold a celebration involving the whole family”. Massachusetts also has other specialty courts, including drug courts, mental health courts, veterans’ treatment courts, and a homeless court. In fact, there are a total of 39 specialty courts in Massachusetts.
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