Juvenile Drug Court offers hope

Of the efforts to address illegal drug use in our community, the 2009 creation of the Blair County Juvenile Drug Court deserves praise.

Unlike the typical juvenile court proceedings where a teenager’s fate rests in the hands of a county judge, this specialty court gives teenagers and their families a role in deciding that fate. And for those who take advantage of the effort, Juvenile Drug Court provides hope.

“Drug court is not for kids who get in trouble but for kids who need help,” a young offender told Altoona Mirror reporter Phil Ray for a story published Sunday.

In the story, the offender, now 18 and living on her own while working two jobs, recalled the lessons she learned and the people she met through drug court and how they made a difference in her life.

The remainder of the story detailed efforts and proceedings inside Juvenile Drug Court where teenagers confront the consequences for drug-related charges.

Judge Elizabeth Doyle, who oversees the county’s Juvenile Drug Court, works on each case with juvenile probation officers and an assessment team that includes representatives from the district attorney and public defender’s offices, Blair County Drug and Alcohol Inc., Pyramid Healthcare and local schools.

Every two weeks, the team reviews each teenager’s efforts to address drug use and/or related behaviors. When the offenders do well, they are held up as examples to others and offered encouragement to keep up the good work.

“We don’t dwell on the past. We focus on the future,” Juvenile Probation Office Cathy Dickinson said. “Every kid has strengths.”

While it’s a given that not every youngster will find success in Juvenile Drug Court, it seems to be an option reflecting a community’s desire to help its youth and lay the groundwork for a brighter future.

Currently, Blair is one of 11 Pennsylvania counties offering the option because those involved in the local judiciary system agreed to set up the court and keep it going.

For that, they deserve to be commended and supported.