The Faulkner County Juvenile Drug Court (FCJDC) announced new partnerships with members of the University of Central Arkansas and other members of the community during a news conference Thursday.
Circuit Judge Troy B. Braswell Jr. said the expansion includes the UCA Department of Occupational Therapy and Director Dr. Lorrie George-Paschal, law enforcement officers Kevin Miller and Sean Julian, community representatives Jerry Boyer, who serves on the Faulkner County Quorum Court and Executive Director of Deliver Hope Daniel Tyler and Central Arkansas Workforce Services’s Bobby Strobel.
In addition to the new members, the team originally consisted of Faulkner County Public Defender Jim Lane, Faulkner County Juvenile Court Prosecuting Attorney Leslie Dawes, the drug court coordinator, therapists Kristy Kennedy and Aaron Crow and education representative Ed Franklin.
"What you’re looking at is a community stepping up," Braswell said. "What you’re looking at is the new face of juvenile justice reform, not only in Faulkner County, but across the state. This is how it happens."
Years ago when Braswell took the bench, he said he noticed that the juvenile drug court — designed for youth with substance abuse disorders who come into contact with the juvenile justice system — was struggling.
"I knew immediately that we had to revitalize that drug court and so we immediately started looking at ways to do that," Braswell said.
Through that year of doing research and looking at national trends and recommendations for those needs, he said he observed a need for expansion and partnerships, using those resources to bring reform to the juvenile courts.
"Adolescents with substance disorders frequently have mental health disorders, traumatic histories and other risk factors that present unique challenges for the court," Braswell said.
Because of that, he said it is imperative that the court develop a strong team to support the youth that need it.
"We are excited to announced the expansion of this team and explain how it will impact our youth, their families and our community," Braswell said.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Carol Crews said she has had the honor of partnering with Judge Braswell’s drug court and have had a "front row" seat to the success.
"Rehabilitation works best at the juvenile level while our young people are still malleable," she said.
Braswell said he was able to witness the first group of African Americans graduate from the program since it was fabricated 10 years ago.
He also noted the number of youth booked in the county jail has dropped overall by 25 percent.
"What that shows is we’re not being softer, we’re being smarter," he said. "Public safety is always important to what we’re doing but we want to see kids and families be able to fight addiction and be able to see too that they can be successful."
Tyler said Deliver Hope’s partnership with the juvenile court is what makes the nonprofit work.
"Because Judge Braswell has been so adamant about seeing young people actually receive the help that they need … he’s willing to do whatever it takes," he said. "Because of those relationships, it’s easier to partner with all of these people on drug court."
Tyler said one of the main aspects that they focus on at Deliver Hope is mentorships. He said recently, he saw results first hand when a fight broke out at an outreach they recently held.
During the chaos, he said one big thing he noticed was that the kids who had a mentor weren’t involved in the altercation, but instead, were the ones trying to break it up.
"It just spoke so much," he said.
Overall, Braswell said the programs and partnerships they are creating are valuable because they bring more opportunities to the table and more support for juveniles and their families altogether.