Bar News Masthead

New Family Treatment Court to be Established in Circuit Courts within Sullivan County

By: Susan Warner

On October 16, the Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded the New Hampshire Judicial Branch $1.75 million to establish a new family drug court program. As one of a handful of states not to have a family drug court, New Hampshire applied for and will now pilot a Family Treatment Court (FTC) in the 5th Circuit Courts—Claremont and Newport Family Divisions—in Sullivan County.

The FTC will help enhance access to services for children experiencing abuse and neglect due to substance use disorder and/or mental illness. It will also connect parents, caregivers, and others involved in the case to services. Led by an interdisciplinary team, the FTC will deliver services, regularly reinforce positive behaviors, and hold participants accountable for harmful behaviors.

“The Circuit Court welcomes the opportunity to begin a pilot Family Treatment Court in Sullivan County,” noted Deputy Administrative Judge Susan Ashley. “This area of the state has a disproportionately high number of cases involving child abuse and neglect, and children born substance exposed. The grant will allow the courts to work with parents in instances where substance misuse, mental illness, poverty, housing instability and disparate education are significant challenges to families trying to correct conditions of neglect.”

The Sullivan County FTC will also serve as a pilot program and will assist the statewide FTC team in developing best practices for potential FTCs in other counties and for family and criminal cases involving parents with substance abuse disorder in Circuit Courts (child protection, divorce/parenting, misdemeanor, mental health courts) and Superior Courts (felony cases, adult drug courts) statewide.

“Families who’ve been struggling with substance abuse are often at risk of becoming disconnected from the community,” said Circuit Court Administrator Heather Kulp, “We hope the new FTC will offer these families the support and resources they need to overcome the challenges they face and for all members, parents as well as children, to thrive.”