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Harford County outsources counseling services for juvenile drug court

Harford County has hired an outside company to provide counseling services for participants in its Juvenile Drug Court Program, replacing three Department of Community Services employees who had been addiction counselors until their jobs were eliminated by the outsourcing.

Emmorton Treatment Services, of Abingdon, took over the program last Wednesday. County officials expect the switch will allow participants to receive better and more services, county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.

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"This is a system that is ongoing," Mumby said. "The only thing that is happening here is Harford County has switched providers."

The juvenile drug court operates under the Harford County Circuit Court umbrella and is designed to help non-violent drug offenders avoid further involvement with the criminal justice system with an array of treatment services and regular drug testing, according to Mumby.

"Drug court can follow as part of their sentencing," Mumby said.

Judge William O. Carr, senior member of the Circuit Court bench, was instrumental in establishing the Drug Court. He said the decision to hire an outside contractor was entirely the county's, since the funding was through the county government.

Drug court is a 12-month program. Participants must appear before a judge twice a month, and they must pass a weekly drug test. They receive addiction counseling as well.

Representatives of Juvenile Services, the Harford County State's Attorney's Office, the Office of the Public Defender and the school system are involved in drug court, according to Mumby.

Participants who do not comply with the program can be referred to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, she said.

The records of youths who complete the program "could be amended, and that could lead to expungement of the criminal record," Mumby said.

The county is paying $72,000 a year for Emmorton Treatment Services using grant money from the DJS, compared to the $213,000 a year it was paying for the three employees, according to Mumby.

The county has a total DJS grant of $75,000, and the remaining $3,000 will be used for drug testing, Mumby said.

One of the county employees resigned before the switch to Emmorton was made. The other two do not work for the county anymore, according to Mumby.

Those three positions were funded with grant and county money, she said.

"Any additional funding available as a result of this switch is going to be used to help kids earlier on in the process before it gets to the courts," Mumby said.

She said Emmorton Treatment Services will provide mental health counseling for drug court participants on top of the addiction counseling they already receive.

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Substance abuse is often driven by "emotional pain" or a mental health issue the user is dealing with, Mumby said.

"To address those underlying problems, we wanted to be able to include mental health services," Mumby said.

Fourteen youths were receiving services through drug court, including five who have already had contact with the court system and nine more who have not been involved with the courts but wanted treatment for their addictions.

Mumby said the partnership with Emmorton Treatment Services will allow the county to serve up to 20 drug court clients. Emmorton provides longer service hours than the county along with a PhD level of counseling.

Previous counseling sessions were held at the Department of Community Services and Juvenile Services offices in Bel Air. Future counseling sessions will be at Emmorton Treatment's offices in Abingdon, Mumby said.

She said all families have been informed of the transition except one, which Mumby said the county had been unable to reach..

"We do believe that this going to help kids, and that's the bottom line," she said.

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