Thanks to federal funding, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Family Treatment Court will be able to expand its operations over the next several years.
Family Treatment Court — or FTC, as it’s known by participants — was among various substance use disorder and drug court programs across the commonwealth to receive a total of nearly $8 million in Department of Justice funding.
According to a joint news release from Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, the funding will go toward the development, improvement and expansion of four different treatment programs designed to address substance use disorders.
“These programs are a critical part of our criminal justice system, as they focus on prevention and rehabilitation, giving those suffering from addiction a better chance at recovery,” the senators said in the release.
Locally, Charlottesville is listed as a recipient of $827,973 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s family drug court program, which works to improve the capacity of municipalities to better support existing family drug courts or establish new ones.
Although Charlottesville is listed as the recipient, Albemarle County also will benefit from the funds, according to FTC coordinator Laura Handler, of the Region Ten Community Services Board.
FTC began in 2002 as an unfunded program and is a joint effort between the juvenile court, the Charlottesville and Albemarle departments of social services, Piedmont CASA and Region Ten.
Unlike the Charlottesville Albemarle Adult Drug Treatment Court, participants in FTC aren’t entering the court after receiving criminal charges and are voluntarily entered after being referred from their local department of social services or if a judge orders it.
The program had grant funding between 2004 and 2007 from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and was continued through local sources of funding, such as the social services departments, Handler said.
The first of its kind in the commonwealth, FTC is now one of four such programs in Virginia.
With the new grant — the first from the OJJDP since the initial grant ran out in 2007 — Handler said they hope to improve programming and expand staffing by hiring additional clinical staff, a full-time case manager and a full-time peer support coordinator, among others.
However, Handler said the grant-request was made prior to the onset of COVID-19 and she is not sure yet what impact, if any, the change in FTC format will have on their plans.
As with many treatment programs across the nation, Handler said FTC was forced to adjust to the pandemic and necessary social distancing, which can complicate programs that rely on face-to-face contact.
“I definitely don’t think virtual meetings are preferred; there’s just something that you lose in it, and it has been something that they’ve had to adapt to,” Handler said. “Fortunately, there was no one lost because of a lack of access to technology. The local [social services departments] have been great about helping participants get access to computers.”
Currently, the program is serving 12 families, which is within the program’s typical range of 10 to 14 families, Handler said.
Since the program switched in March to being primarily virtual, Handler said they’ve seen seven participants start the program and held one hybrid virtual/in-person graduation in September.
Set at the courthouse for the Charlottesville Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, FTC participant Kelsey Faust received her certificate of completion from Judge David M. Barredo as her peers watched virtually.
“It was a new experience and history-making,” said Handler, who was also present at the graduation. “We’re happy we’re still able to hold these ceremonies because they are a big part of the program.”