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Perry Bennett/West Virginia Legislative Photography Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell and chairman of the Committee on the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse, speaks about House Bill 2686, which would allow the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to create a family drug treatment court pilot program, on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Charleston.

CHARLESTON - As West Virginia sees success of adult and juvenile drug courts to rehabilitate drug offenders with substance use disorder, a bill to create family drug courts has passed the first hurdle in the Legislature.

The House of Delegates on Thursday passed House Bill 2686, which will allow the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to create a family drug treatment court pilot program in at least four circuits.

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare suggests that a well-functioning family drug court program brings together substance use disorder treatment, child welfare services, mental health and social services agencies in a nonadversarial approach. Family drug courts seek to provide safe environments for children, intensive judicial monitoring, and interventions to treat parents' substance use disorders and other co-occurring risk factors.

Studies show outcomes include higher rates of participation and longer stays in substance use disorder treatment, family reunification and less time for children in foster care.

"As our committee has drilled down into the substance abuse problem, often it's a family problem," said Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell and chairman of the Committee on the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse, where the bill originated. "You have to take a holistic approach to this. There is a little cost to this, but not a lot. The benefit to this state to get a family engaged and get the family unit functioning we can get 1,000 times return."

The bill establishes a state family drug court advisory committee to evaluate and recommend standards to implement the program, assist the Supreme Court in evaluating the effectiveness of the program, and encourage and assist in the coordination of the different agencies within the program. The advisory committee also will have to report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability annually to recommend legislative changes.

The circuits where the family drug courts are placed also will need to establish advisory committees to ensure quality, efficiency and fairness in the planning, implementation and operation of the family drug treatment courts.

Each local advisory committee will determine criteria and eligibility for participation for adults who are charged with abuse or neglect and have been granted an improvement period, while also having substance use disorder. Those who do not qualify for an improvement period within the abuse and neglect case will not qualify.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

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