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Logan County Circuit Court Judge Joshua Butcher and Family Treatment Court Case Coordinator Ashley Ranson pose for a photo in the Circuit Courtroom of the county courthouse.

LOGAN, W.Va. — A treatment program that originally began as a pilot in three West Virginia counties, including neighboring Boone County, is now offering services in Logan County as part of a recent expansion that included five more counties statewide.

Family Treatment Court was established in Logan County in October 2020 and provides parents with substance abuse disorders a new avenue for rehabilitation and regaining their parental rights. The program is a collaborative effort that includes the county Circuit Court, the Logan County Day Report Center, Child Protective Services, substance abuse providers, foster care and others.

Logan County’s Family Treatment Court got its first participant in January and is now up to nine. Twenty participants are allowed in the program at one time.

Participants in Family Treatment Court must go through a rigorous, nine-month minimum process in which they must pass through five milestones. Throughout their journey in the program, participants are consistently drug-screened, visited and checked on in other ways by officials who oversee their progress.

“It’s a lot,” said Logan County Circuit Judge Joshua Butcher, who is the judge who oversees the program and all of the county’s neglect and abuse cases. “It’s a lot that’s expected of them, and it can be overwhelming because it’s a lot to deal with. It’s an intensive supervision program, and a lot of people who are struggling with the issues that bring them to court in these kind of cases need that intensive supervision. They need that structure in their lives and without it, they’re far less likely to succeed.”

Drug screenings take place a minimum of three times per week at first and gradually wind down as participants make their way through the program. Participants must maintain daily contact with Ashley Ranson, the court case coordinator for Family Treatment Court.

Participants are required to take part in individual and group counseling, and some are required couples counseling in certain cases. If a participant does not have a job, they are required to complete community service, as well as Jobs and Hope West Virginia, a program established by Gov. Jim Justice and the State Legislature.

“We also have them participate in Jobs and Hope West Virginia just so they can have more resources than what we are able to provide,” Ranson said, “and then they can help with driver’s licenses, further their education, give them more job opportunities available.”

Each participant is allowed a limited amount of supervised visitation hours each week for their child. Visitation protocols gradually shift as participants pass through each of the program’s milestones.

“They get supervised visitation at first, and then after so long being in the program — usually milestone two, milestone three — we start doing unsupervised and even overnights,” Ranson said. “At the end of milestone three to milestone four, we’re looking to permanently place the kids back in the home while they’re still maintaining all the services, so that way when they graduate after milestone five, they’ve (the children) already been in the home getting the aftercare.”

Family Treatment Court launched in West Virginia in October 2019 as a pilot program in five counties: Boone, Ohio, Randolph, Nicholas and Roane. Boone County’s program is overseen by Circuit Judge Will Thompson, who has been a major proponent of its expansion around the state. The county graduated its first class of two participants in August 2020.

On May 6, Nicholas County graduated its first class. In August 2020, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources allocated up to $1.5 million to expand Family Treatment Court into three more counties: Logan, Braxton and McDowell.

Butcher said the program has allowed him, along with those involved with the program, to have a more personal connection with the individuals involved in the cases.

“What’s really unique about this program, for me, from my perspective, is typically, my dealings with the parents, in these cases, are limited to the several court hearings that we’ll have over the procedural life of a case, and I don’t get to know them very well except for their case details, not them as people. But now, in this program, I see them every single Thursday at 1 p.m. to go over their progress — what’s gone good in their week, what’s gone bad in their week, whether they need incentivized in some way through the program, whether they need sanctioned in some way through the program to help get them back on the right path; and I get to hear how their visits are going with their kids … just their high points and their low points. You get to know them more as a person.”

Logan County is expected to hold its first graduation in October or November, according to Butcher and Ranson.

“When these graduations come up and we see them succeed, and I know we’re going to see that at a higher rate than we do typically in these cases because of the intensive supervision and the additional services that they’re getting, it’s going to be all that more meaningful, both to them and to everyone in the program that’s working with them, including me, because they’re than a name on a page,” Butcher said. “They’re a real Logan County parent struggling with substance abuse disorder that’s overcoming and making a huge change to keep their family intact, and I’m excited to see it.”

HD Media news reporter Dylan Vidovich can be contacted via email at dvidovich@HDMediaLLC.com.

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