A new approach. When a mother or father struggles with addiction, it impacts each member of their family in different and lasting ways. A new specialty court session, led by Franklin Probate and Family Court First Justice Beth Crawford, is taking a systems-based approach to handling custody and parenting cases impacted by a substance use disorder. The special session, which marked its official opening at a ceremony in June, addresses the needs of court-involved parents and their families as a unit.
Lessening the stigma of addiction. The family drug court aims to lessen the shame associated with substance use disorder by teaching recovering parents, their children, grandparents and other caregivers about the biochemical causes of addiction. The phased program is voluntary, and will refer court-involved parents and family members to services and resources in the community, such as trauma assessments and support groups.
Community and agency partners include the Department of Revenue’s Child Support Enforcement Unit, Greenfield Community College, Community Action’s Family Resource Center, and local treatment providers.
Background. In 2013, court leaders and local officials formed the Franklin County Opioid Task Force in 2013 to address Western Massachusetts’ growing opioid crisis. When Probate and Family Court First Justice Beth Crawford noticed an increase in families appearing before her with one or both parents struggling with opioid addiction, she worked with the Task Force to develop the Family Drug Court.
Judge Crawford spoke at the event about the “heart wrenching” impact of opioid addiction on local families. She shared a story of a grandmother who recently came to court to obtain guardianship of her 8-year old granddaughter, whose mother had died of an overdose that day. The grandmother asked the court for help to prevent her granddaughter, technically the next-of-kin before guardianship was finalized, from having to sign for her mother’s body. The woman then raced from court to meet her granddaughter as she got off the school bus. It is Judge Crawford’s hope that the family drug court can prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
“The family drug court is not just about problem-solving. It is about healing,” says Judge Crawford. “It is about doing something immediate to save lives, and to improve outcomes for families and our Franklin County community. In one way or another, we are all impacted by the opioid crisis.”
Opioid Task Force website
Another Piece in the Puzzle: Family Drug Court Opens - Greenfield Recorder, June 17, 2016