Presiding Judge Thomas O. Branford has announced that the Lincoln County Circuit Court will undergo some significant changes and improvements beginning in January.
First, Judge Sheryl Bachart will take over as the Drug Court judge. Drug Court was started in Lincoln County in 2006, with Judge Robert Huckleberry presiding. Branford took over in 2008 and continued until 2015. Judge Paulette Sanders presided over Drug Court from 2015 until 2018, when Branford once again took over those duties. Bachart will now assume that position beginning Jan. 7.
Drug Court is the longest-serving treatment court in Lincoln County. It was created to give defendants who have addiction and criminal cases an opportunity to get sober and make major life changes. The priority of drug court is to put drug-addicted parents in the program to help break the cycle of abuse. However, people of all ages are accepted into the program. There are more than 3,000 drug courts nationwide serving 150,000 seriously drug-addicted individuals each year. To date, there have been a total of 137 graduates in Lincoln County Drug Court.
“The positive effect of those personal accomplishments on the lives of Lincoln County residents from those successes are immeasurable,” said Branford. “Judge Bachart will now bring her considerable talents to continue to improve on the success that Drug Court is.” He noted that Lincoln County is very fortunate to have Bachart’s dedication and commitment to help people regain self-respect and a positive influence on the communities through long-term sobriety.
Bachart has been presiding over Domestic Violence Court for more than 10 years and will continue in that role. However, she is excited to take over Drug Court, as she has seen the positive impact of treatment courts on the lives of the participants and their families.
“Seeing people transform their lives and be positive members of this community is the most rewarding part of this job,” said Bachart. “Everyone has a story as to how they got to the place where they are in the criminal justice system. Treatment courts give you the opportunity and time to learn their stories and support them in their recovery.”
Branford also announced the implementation of a Mental Health Treatment Court starting in January. He said Lincoln County Circuit Judge pro-tem Amanda Benjamin has worked creatively and diligently with community partners to begin this new endeavor.
“Mental Health Court will assist in quickly identifying individuals with mental illness in our county jail and diverting those individuals from the jail to appropriate treatment programs and services,” Benjamin said. “Over time, the program aims to reduce recidivism, help individuals with mental illness access resources in our community and assist individuals with mental illness in attaining long-term stability and wellbeing.”
This new program will be a joint effort between the Lincoln County Circuit Court, Lincoln County Health and Human Services, Lincoln County Parole and Probation, Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office, Lincoln County Defense Consortium, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Reconnections Counseling.
Connecting individuals with mental illness to services is a nationwide problem, Benjamin said, however, it is particularly difficult in a community where resources are limited and the cost of living is high.
“While we hope to attain funding in the future, this program will begin with only the generous donations of time and resources from our community partners,” said Benjamin. “Supporting individuals with mental heath diagnoses is a community effort, and the contribution and involvement of community members who can assist in our goals are welcome.”
Anyone with an interest in helping with this project can contact either Benjamin or the Mental Health Treatment Court coordinator, Megan Bostwick-Terry.