BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The re-launched Saratoga County Family Treatment Court aims to help litigants going through the system, especially those struggling with addiction, get the services they need to come out better on the other side.
Litigants — or Program Graduates (as the court calls them) like Mary. The rough-and-tumble road of addiction caused her to lose custody of her son, and eventually her daughter. Mary’s court appointed parent advocate Karen, spoke on her behalf:
“When I had my court date on zoom in that small hospital room, the judge said I could not keep her, and this broke my heart. Then a wonderful thing happened in my life. Family treatment court, or FTC, was offered to me, and I accepted.”
Mary says that made all the difference. Aided by Schenectady County’s FTC, she was able to overcome addiction and get one of her kids back. Now she wants to support the court model’s Saratoga re-introduction. Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, who was a family court prosecutor and attorney, is a big advocate of the program.
“She sounded like so many people that I’ve worked with in Family Court over the years. He loves her child, her life and she was really asking for help she needed” the politician said.
Judge Amy Knussman spearheaded the Saratoga re-launch: “I have found that those individuals that are suffering and do not have the support of a professional team, don’t even make it to the courthouse”.
The judge says FTC differs from the traditional Family Court method, because access to state services is completely voluntary. Knussman added that statistics show why the court pays special addiction treatment.
“The article 10 child abuse and neglect petitions that are filed in our court, 60% of those petitions, contain allegations of substance use” the Judge continued.
Overall assemblywoman Walsh underscores what she says is the goal of the court method.
“The court is not always an instrument for dividing families, but really it has the goal of putting families back together again.”
Judge Knussman hopes the treatment court will help at least 20 litigants over the next year.