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Maryland Judiciary shares stories of success amid COVID-19

in honor of National Drug Court Month | Week 3

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic is proving to be one of, if not the most, challenging and unprecedented events in the history of the Maryland Judiciary. Judiciary leadership, judges, and court staff are working tirelessly to maintain essential daily operations amid the global pandemic.

The Maryland Judiciary’s Problem-Solving Courts are paving the way in finding new innovative ways to connect, assist, and support current participants in the Judiciary’s substance abuse, mental health, and veteran’s treatment programs.

Experts say participants may be triggered by the anxiety, uncertainty, and stress brought on by the challenges in facing a global pandemic and as a result, those individuals are more susceptible to potential relapse.

Judges and problem-solving court staff are at the forefront when it comes to leading the courts in finding new ways of using technology to facilitate their dockets and manage treatment courts during these critical and trying times.

Every year, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) recognizes the month of May as National Drug Court Month. Due to COVID-19, the Judiciary is joining NADCP in acknowledging this month by featuring the many recent success stories from various treatment courts throughout Maryland. Each week, the Judiciary will highlight two programs by sharing their stories of success during the COVID-19 crisis.

Somerset County Circuit Court Recovery Court hosts weekly meetings to keep participants on a positive track

“It is equally important in recovery court to not lose sight of the fact that in these unprecedented times, we are all in this together…”

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - Somerset County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Powell is ensuring that the Somerset County Circuit Court Recovery Court program does not miss any sessions during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Since COVID-19 began in Maryland, the Somerset County Circuit Court Recovery Court program has held weekly virtual sessions through Skype for Business. Each month, the virtual sessions have grown. Judge Powell held the first virtual session on March 26 with staff and 11 participants who joined the Skype sessions to speak with him individually. The virtual sessions on April 9, April 23, and May 7, had 17 participants. For the upcoming docket on May 21, the virtual session will have 19 participants.

Somerset County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Powell conducts a virtual meeting with the Recovery Court
Judge Powell conducted a virtual meeting with Recovery Court on Skype for Business on May 7, 2020.

“As a community, we are all in this together,” said Judge Powell. “It is equally important in recovery court to not lose sight of the fact that in these unprecedented times, we are all in this together not just for the fight against COVID-19, but for recovery from addiction, as well.”

The Somerset County Circuit Court Recovery Court program is also utilizing an app called Reconnect Community. Recovery Court Coordinator Cherie Meienschein keeps the line of communication open with each participant by scheduling remote meeting requests through the app. During each follow-up session, Meienschein checks the participant’s personalized case management plan and establishes a schedule for them to meet with telehealth providers. If a participant needs further online support, Judge Powell promotes the use of online self-help groups through Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Additionally, the Somerset County Circuit Court Recovery Court’s treatment providers have continued to work closely with participants by providing them with addiction, mental health, and medication-assisted therapies via remote platforms to ensure they have support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The next graduation is scheduled for early September 2020.

 

Baltimore City District Court Veterans Treatment Court features U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs as guest speaker during virtual docket

“…We’re so thankful he made time to meet virtually with us.”

BALTIMORE, Md. - Baltimore City District Court Judge Halee Weinstein has held approximately ten virtual dockets with participants in the Baltimore City District Court Veterans Treatment Court program since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.

Before the virtual docket on April 21, Judge Weinstein invited United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to speak to the treatment team to thank them for their dedication and commitment to helping the veterans in the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC).

“Secretary Wilkie thanked the Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court team for its commitment to veterans and spoke about working creatively to stay on mission during these uncertain times,” said Judge Weinstein. “He recalled how General Matthew Ridgway, who parachuted into France on D-Day and later became a four-star general, inspired American troops to innovate during some of the most challenging moments of the Korean War.”

Toward the end of the virtual docket, Secretary Wilkie shared a special message with the court. “Secretary Wilkie encouraged all of us to keep working for those who served our country, and we’re so thankful he made time to meet virtually with us,” Judge Weinstein said.

Judge Weinstein, a U.S. Army veteran, founded Veterans Treatment Court in 2015 as a comprehensive, court-supervised, and voluntary treatment-based program for veterans charged with misdemeanor and concurrent jurisdiction felonies in the District Court.

Veterans Treatment Court Coordinator Jamie Meyers said a case manager on her team is sending veterans weekly emails on COVID-19 resources. The case manager also alerts veterans of weekly food deliveries and promotes mental health and substance use treatments via telehealth.

Currently, there are 33 veterans enrolled in VTC. To date, approximately 77 veterans have completed the VTC program.

Graduations for veterans in the program occur on a rolling basis. The most recent graduation was held virtually on May 6 and there was one graduate.

 

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(May 21, 2020)