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County Helping Needy

The strength of a family and the vitality of a community are symbiotic relationships: When one suffers, its impact is almost immediately felt on the other.

Countless studies have shown that unstable households can lead to increased crime and other social issues. Such households can also leave lasting emotional scars on others left to cope through a difficult life.

Many unable to cope with mounting stress at home or in the workplace often turn to drugs, alcohol or crime. While some are able to break free from this self-destructive cycle, Coconino County, court officials and multiple other organizations have spent years assembling countless programs designed to provide the support needed to break free from an abusive lifestyle.

One outlet to help rehabilitate those most fragile community members among us is through the county’s specialty courts, including Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Veteran’s Court and Integrated Family Court.

By paring those in the judicial system with the programs and counseling sessions they need, the entire community benefits. Crime decreases, local businesses flourish and families can live without fear.

Promoting strong families and supporting our children has been the goal of Integrated Family Court since it began in 2006. Currently there are 18 programs and services offered under Integrated Family Court and this spring, New Beginnings will be the court’s nineteenth.

New Beginnings was developed as a parenting-after-divorce program that teaches positive parenting skills following divorce. The program was developed by Arizona State University Psychology Professors Irwin Sandler and Sharlene Wolchik, who found that children of divorced parents were at an increased risk for mental health issues, substance abuse and poor school achievement.

 

The program, which began in Maricopa and Pima counties, is expanding to Yuma and Coconino Counties this spring. Researchers found that of the 147 participants in Maricopa and Pima counties, children involved experienced fewer serious behavior and emotional problems, higher grades, higher self-esteem, less drug and alcohol use and less sexual activity.

 

In follow-up interviews, parents and children were still experiencing major benefits from taking part in the relatively short program, six and 15 years later.

The program is free of charge, in exchange for parents participating in an evaluation of the program. To be eligible, parents must be divorced or separated from a spouse or domestic partner during the past two years, have children between the ages of three and 18, have a minimal level of regular contact with the children and not be remarried. Parents who are interested in participating can call toll-free at 855-531-0851 or visit http://nbpdivorce.org.

The program is just one tool our courts utilize to ensure those needing specialized services get the help they need. By providing counseling and referral services, we hope to break the cycle of violence, crime and self-abuse that plagues many families.

 

Last summer, Superior Court and the Legal Defender’s Office collaborated on a similar mission, this time pairing veterans in the judicial system with the specialized services they need to remain positive, contributing members of the community.

 

Veteran’s Court aims to rehabilitate military veterans by working closely with area veterans groups, including the Northern Arizona Veteran’s Affairs Health Care System in Prescott, to pair former soldiers with counselors, mentors and other services to address key behavioral issues.

 

Attorneys and officials involved have specialized training in military culture and veterans issues and work collaboratively and with the County Adult Probation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which formulate plans to address treatment, rehabilitation, housing and employment needs.

 

Veterans Court shares the same basic mission as our Drug Court and Mental Health Courts, which offer specialized care and services to afford those in the judicial system better success in leading a productive life. Each of these programs is an investment in our community and provides long-term savings by keeping repeat offenders from entering the criminal justice system.

 

By caring for those needing counseling and/or substance abuse programs, we help ensure the livelihood of our families. When our families are strong, our community is even stronger. FBN

 

Interim County Manager Mike Townsend is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff.

 

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