Oct 13, 2016

Veterans Justice Court celebrates first graduation ceremony

Photo: Sarah Ravani / The Chronicle / Sarah Ravani / The San Francisco Chronicle

Last month, San Francisco's Veterans Justice Court (VJC) held its first graduation ceremony for formerly incarcerated veterans who completed the program. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Ross presided. VJC's celebration was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle.

As the article describes, VJC "works with incarcerated veterans to develop a customized treatment plan to assist them with whatever troubles they may be facing once they are released from prison — whether it’s homelessness or substance abuse."

“Incarceration is not the way to deal with most crimes. I believe in working with people so they don’t come back to incarceration," says Judge Ross.

Oct 11, 2016

Young Adult Court in SF Magazine

San Francisco's newest collaborative court, Young Adult Court (YAC), was featured in San Francisco Magazine last month. Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan presides over YAC.

Judge Bruce Chan, San Francisco Superior Court
As the article describes, YAC is "an attempt to combine emerging neuroscience with social justice, changing the fate of young felons in the process. A growing body of neuroscience research suggests a need to prosecute 18-to-25-year-olds differently than older adults, but Young Adult Court is one of the only alternative courts in the country to provide such an option."

"The idea for San Francisco’s Young Adult Court was first conceived in 2013, when District Attorney George Gasc√≥n and then–chief probation officer Wendy Still participated in a criminal justice program at the Harvard Kennedy School. They were inspired by recent research showing that the prefrontal cortex—the part of our brains that manages impulsive decisions, peer pressure, and risk taking—is still rapidly developing until our mid-20s. As a result, the late teenage years and early 20s are the time in life when risky behaviors peak. Rates of unintended pregnancy, binge drinking, and crimes of opportunity are all highest at this age, precisely the time when our legal system says we should know better. While still a relatively recent development in the science world, this matches what most of us already know to be true on a gut level: that 18-to-25-year-olds, while legally adults, don’t always act like them."

Click here to read the full article.

May 16, 2016

White House: A Conversation About Addiction

"When we talk about opioid abuse as the public health problem it is, more people will seek the help they need. More people will find the strength to recover, just like Macklemore and millions of Americans have. We’ll see fewer preventable deaths and fewer broken families."  
President Barack Obama

In his most recent weekly address, "A Conversation About Addiction," President Barack Obama partnered with hip hop artist Macklemore to bring attention to opioid addiction and the need to expand treatment services for those who need it.

Drug overdoses now take more lives every year than traffic accidents

Remarks of President Barack Obama and Macklemore as Prepared for Delivery
Weekly Address
The White House
May 14, 2016
THE PRESIDENT:  Hi, everybody.  I’ve got a special guest with me this week – Macklemore.  For those of you who don’t share the same love[i] for hip-hop, he’s a Grammy-winning artist – but he’s also an advocate who’s giving voice to a disease we too often just whisper about: the disease of addiction.
MACKLEMORE:  Hey, everybody.  I’m here with President Obama because I take this personally.  I abused prescription drugs and battled addiction.  If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed when I needed it, I might not be here today.  And I want to help others facing the same challenges I did.
THE PRESIDENT:  Drug overdoses now take more lives every year than traffic accidents.  Deaths from opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000.  A lot of the time, they’re from legal drugs prescribed by a doctor.  So addiction doesn’t always start in some dark alley – it often starts in a medicine cabinet.  In fact, a new study released this month found that 44 percent of Americans know someone who has been addicted to prescription pain killers. 

MACKLEMORE:  I didn’t just know someone – I lost someone.  My friend Kevin overdosed on painkillers when he was just 21 years old.  Addiction is like any other disease – it doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t care what color you are, whether you’re a guy or a girl, rich or poor, whether you live in the inner-city, a suburb, or rural America.  This doesn’t just happen to other people’s kids or in some other neighborhood.  It can happen to any of us.
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s why just talking about this crisis isn’t enough – we need to get treatment to more people who need it.  My administration is working with communities to reduce overdose deaths, including with medication.  We’re working with law enforcement to help people get into treatment instead of jail.  And under Obamacare, health plans in the Marketplace have to include coverage for treatment.
MACKLEMORE:  I know recovery isn’t easy or quick, but along with the 12-step program, treatment has saved my life.  Recovery works – and we need our leaders in Washington fund it and people know how to find it.
THE PRESIDENT: We all need to do more to make that happen.  I’ve asked Congress to expand access to recovery services, and to give first responders the tools they need to treat overdoses before it’s too late.  This week, the House passed several bills about opioids – but unless they also make actual investments in more treatment, it won’t get Americans the help they need.
On top of funding, doctors also need more training about the power of the pain medication they prescribe, and the risks they carry.  Another way our country can help those suffering in private is to make this conversation public.
MACKLEMORE:  When you’re going through it, it’s hard to imagine there could be anything worse than addiction.  But shame and the stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help they need.  Addiction isn’t a personal choice or a personal failing.  And sometimes it takes more than a strong will to get better – it takes a strong community and accessible resources. 
THE PRESIDENT:  The good news is, there’s hope.  When we talk about opioid abuse as the public health problem it is, more people will seek the help they need.  More people will find the strength to recover, just like Macklemore and millions of Americans have.  We’ll see fewer preventable deaths and fewer broken families.
MACKLEMORE:  We have to tell people who need help that it’s OK to ask for it.  We’ve got to make sure they know where to get it.
THE PRESIDENT:  We all have a role to play.  Even if we haven’t fought this battle in our own lives, there’s a good chance we know someone who has, or who is.
MACKLEMORE:  President Obama and I just had a powerful conversation here at the White House about opioid abuse, and what we can do about it.  You can catch it this summer on MTV.  And to find treatment in your area, call 1-800-662-HELP.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, and have a great weekend.

May 13, 2016

New name for the San Francisco Family Treatment Court

On Friday, May 13, the Honorable Kathleen Kelly announced that the San Francisco Dependency Drug Court has a new name:  San Francisco Family Treatment Court 

In a message to judges, court staff, and collaborative partners, Judge Kelly stated:

"The new name reflects not only best practices in this field, but the true work of the dedicated team which provides coordinated, family focused, trauma informed care to all members of the families we serve – parents and children alike.

"We appreciate the leadership and support of [Presiding] Judge [John] Stewart and [Supervising] Judge Anne-Christine Massullo and the extraordinary dedication of the members of the San Francisco Family Treatment Court Team."

The San Francisco Family Treatment Court will be honored at the Homeless Prenatal Program's annual celebration on Saturday, May 14.
Our Light, Our House