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Family Treatment Court Opens in Ohio County

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead, right, welcomes the public Tuesday to a reception celebrating the launch of the Family Treatment Court in Ohio County. Accompanying him to Wheeling were fellow justices John Hutchison, left, and Chief Justice Beth Walker.

WHEELING — A Family Treatment Court option is now open in Ohio County, and West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals justices and court officials celebrated with a reception Tuesday.

The Family Treatment Court in Ohio County, under the supervision of Circuit Judge David Sims, is one of three now operating as a pilot program in West Virginia.

The others are in Boone and Randolph counties, and there are plans for two more in Roane and Nicholas counties, according to Chief Justice Beth Walker. She was joined in Wheeling by justices Tim Armstead and John Hutchison.

Walker said Family Treatment Courts are modeled after the state’s drug courts, with an emphasis on getting treatment for those in families separated by drug addiction or abuse and reuniting them sooner.

“Where drug court is usually an option in a criminal case in lieu of incarceration, this is taking a family — where the kids may be put in foster care temporarily — and giving them the same recovery coaching options,” Walker said.

“Parents always get an improvement period in abuse and neglect cases to try and get their kids back, but this is going to formalize this with a lot of support.”

The mission of the court is to keep children at home with their parents, but in a safe and healthy environment, according to Walker.

Simms said the program started in Ohio County two weeks ago with one initial participant, and now there are five people in the program.

He contacted many individuals and agencies to assist in the program, and all said they were willing to help, according to Sims. He said he was blessed to have that support in Ohio County.

“Today we are at the forefront of a culture change when we talk about addiction,” Sims said. “We’re experiencing a public health crisis — not a crisis of morality or criminality. We can no longer treat people with addictions as morally flawed.

“We are starting a new journey to achieve healthy outcomes for our children, our parents, our families and ultimately our community. Each of us is in this committed to offering a hand up to those struggling with addiction. Our promise to our program participants is to work harder than them if we have to, and to provide every last service available to assist them in defeating the disease of addiction…”

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