Flint, MI — The Michigan Supreme Court announced awards to multiple Genesee County problem-solving court (PSC) programs.
According to an Oct. 12 press release, the court’s administrative office awarded more than $18.5 million in grants to PSCs statewide for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24). Those awards include over $1.16 million to PSC programs within the 7th Circuit Court and 67th District Court in downtown Flint.
Michigan’s more than 200 problem-solving courts, according to the press release, “are nontraditional programs that focus on nonviolent offenders whose underlying issues, such as a substance use disorder or mental health diagnosis, have contributed to recurring involvement with the criminal justice system.”
Susan Johnson, supervisor for the 7th Circuit Court’s drug-related PSCs, simplified. She said that unlike in more traditional courts, PSC programs “have a different approach to a case … a team approach.”
Johnson noted that team can include attorneys, but also a treatment provider, like a therapist, a probation agent, child welfare caseworkers and others from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and others, depending on the nature of the program.
“So, it’s not about that this is a criminal matter,” she said. “This is about what is the best thing we can do for this individual to get them on the path to recovery, and so it’s a totally different approach.”
According to Johnson and Sam Olson, who supervises some of the 7th Circuit Court’s other PSC programs, the court received $148,000 going toward its family dependency treatment court, $414,800 to its adult felony recovery court, $187,100 to its mental health court and $23,000 to its veteran’s treatment court.
Olson noted the grants for the mental health and veteran’s treatment courts go toward personnel expenses for two full-time coordinators of the programs, new drug testing supplies, incentives and supplies for program graduates.
“The grants are important for these programs, and these programs go a long way in minimizing recidivism and alleviating some jail overcrowding problems, and, you know, focusing on the overall kind of well being of individuals who, as a result of mental illness, have found themselves in the criminal justice system, and they maybe shouldn’t otherwise be there. So they’re both really good programs,” Olson said.
According to Dana Baumgart, a probation officer and coordinator for the 67th District Court’s Genesee County Sobriety Court (GCSC), her program received a total of four grants for FY24, totaling $413,412.
In an emailed statement, Baumgart noted the funding will support the specialty court’s mission “to enhance public safety by providing the tools, resources, and support necessary for alcohol-dependent participants to attain and maintain sobriety.”
She added statistics around the GCSC’s work, including that for FY23 the court had a 98% employed rate at discharge for graduates and “successful graduates averaged 380 sobriety days.
“Problem-solving courts are all about people—people who help participants day in and day out, people who ultimately get a second chance at a successful life,” said Justice Kyra H. Bolden, who serves as the Michigan Supreme Court’s liaison to PSCs. “But these judges, court staff, and participants could not possibly make a difference or find success without the vital funds we are able to secure through state and federal grant programs every year. We are deeply grateful for this continued support of our courts and, most importantly, the people they serve.”
According to the state’s FY22 Problem Solving Courts Annual Report, graduates of adult drug court programs were, on average, more than three times less likely to be convicted of a new offense within three years of admission to a program. Additionally, on average, mental health court graduates, adult and juvenile, were nearly 2 times less likely to commit another crime within three years of admission to a program.