Budget continues support for treatment courts

The Michigan Legislature has approved a state budget with increased investment in judicial initiatives, including drug, mental health and veterans treatment courts as well as the legal self-help program, according to Michigan Supreme?Court Chief Justice ?Robert P. Young Jr.

This commitment of resources, he said, reflects the continuing effectiveness of court efforts to improve outcomes and increase access. 

“Outcome data tell us that problem-solving courts are effective in keeping participants from reoffending,” said Young in a statement issued Friday. “This funding will help these innovative courts solve even more problems and save even more lives.”

Justice Bridget M. McCormack, the court’s liaison to problem-solving courts, said Michigan Legal Help “is opening the doors of our justice systems to hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents.”
“From divorce to landlord-tenant disputes, families are finding the legal help they need either online or at a self-help center,” McCormack said.

Highlights of the 2017 budget include:

• $300,000 for the Michigan legal self-help website and centers. The website, michiganlegalhelp.org, is visited more than 18,000 times each week and has had nearly 8 million page views since its launch in 2012, according to court officials.

They cited a recent New York Times article featuring the site, which ranks second in the nation in the number of forms completed using Law Help Interactive.

In addition to 10 offices statewide, the program’s 11th self-help center was opened recently in Alcona County.

• $750,000 for problem-solving courts as part of the Statewide Opioid Task Force Initiative.

The funding will be used to establish a medication-assisted pilot program within existing drug treatment courts to target new offenders having alcohol or opioid drug disorders.

• $500,000 to expand the number of participants in veterans treatment courts ($250,000), drug courts ($125,000), and mental health courts ($125,000).

The new funding will help build on Michigan’s national leadership with 23 veterans treatment courts, according to court officials.

Graduates of Michigan treatment courts are two to three times less likely to reoffend, they said. In addition, unemployment among participants has been cut by nearly 75 percent.

Problem-solving courts divert nonviolent offenders from expensive incarceration to treatment and rehabilitation services under strict judicial supervision.