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Erie County Family Court to receive federal grant for Drug Court enhancements

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Erie County Family Court is receiving more than two million dollars over the next five years to enhance its Drug Court program by making more services to both addicts and their loved ones as they collectively continue through a struggle for treatment and recovery.

The grant, totaling $2,125,000 over five years, comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Congressman Brian Higgins, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn were present to announce the grant. The University at Buffalo and Best Self Behavioral Health will partner with Erie County Family Court to bring additional services into the programming already offered.

Erie County Mental Health Commissioner Michael Ranney said the expansion of services will include programs to assist not only the addict but family members, including children.

"Previously, most of the attention in these cases has been focused on the individual struggling with addiction," Ranney said. "But this brings services to the entire family and wraps them around the entire family, because this is a family issue."

Those services, Ranney further explained, include counseling, assistance with finding a primary care provider, prevention services and relapse prevention.

Family Court Judge Margaret Sczsur said when treatment court first opened 16 years ago, alcohol was the top substance abused by people brought before her. Now, 95 percent of the estimated 70 families involved are battling opioid addiction. According to the Erie County Health Department, 80 deaths this year are known to be the result of opioid overdoses, while an additional 132 deaths are under suspicion.

Judge Sczsur welcomed the possibility of breaking a generational cycle of addiction within families.

"Children learn from what they see in their home and what they see with their close family," she said. "If we are able to show that it was a difficult situation that their parents may have gotten into, but they've been able to get past it and that there are supports to prevent these young people from following the same lines, that's what we're really all about and what we'd really like to do."

According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, 75 percent of those who complete drug court programs do not reoffend.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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