News & Press

Ocmulgee Circuit Launches Family Treatment Court, Partners with River Edge Behavioral Health Center

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit has launched a Family Dependency Treatment Court (FDTC) to help keep families together when parents are facing an addiction to drugs. The Circuit has named River Edge Behavioral Health Center as the sole provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment for the new program.
“I expect this approach will give better outcomes reuniting families fractured by drug addiction resulting in children being removed from their care or custody by the state,” said Philip B. Spivey, juvenile court judge for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. “This court provides a structured, intensive and judge-driven program that gives parents a real chance to be reunified with their children.”
The FDTC program is partially funded through a grant from the state’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Family Dependency Treatment Court goals are to make available treatment and strict monitoring as well as multidisciplinary assistance to address the range of challenges families typically face in addition to the substance abuse disorder. 
“The Family Dependency Treatment Court approach helps to fill in gaps in the child welfare system by providing extra monitoring and in-home visits, additional needed supports, as well as in-court compliance.” Judge Spivey said. Parents receive treatment for their addiction as well as parenting skill training, domestic violence education and counseling, mental health maintenance medications when needed as well as other evidence-based strategies. 
“We are thrilled to be selected to be part of this collaboration,” said Shannon Terrell Harvey, chief executive officer of River Edge. “FDTCs are showing great promise in helping heal the wounds of addiction and mend families through strong treatment, wrap-around supports, and accountability. At River Edge, we know treatment is effective, and recovery is to be expected. With recovery, families can be reunited.” 
FDTCs began in 1995.  More than 300 exist today across the US and have been shown to help keep families together. The Ocmulgee Circuit and several other juvenile courts around Georgia, have recently begun their FDTCs. With support from the Casey Family Programs the Georgia FDTCs are doing shared trainings and will track outcome data to demonstrate results for families and taxpayers.
“Among many reasons for utilizing the accountability court model with DFCS cases, two in particular stand out,” Judge Spivey said. “First, these courts save tax money. Returning children to their parents sooner relieves the state and federal governments of the increasing cost of foster care. And, second, they are more effective at reducing relapse and recidivism. Early studies are showing that parents who graduate from FDTC are less likely to have their children removed again.”
The grant began in July.  The Ocmulgee FDTC is now serving 11 parents with referrals ongoing, Judge Spivey said.  Referrals are accepted from Baldwin, Jones, Putnam and Wilkinson counties.
Judge Spivey also stressed, “The Baldwin County FDTC welcomes the support of individuals, businesses and professions, non-profit organizations, faith-based institutions and community leaders. The court needs donations of dental care, clothing for women and children, kitchen utensils, food, linens, towels, furniture, cleaning supplies, moving services and storage space, gift cards, gas cards and gift baskets.” To donate items, contact Genna Wilkes at (478) 445-7060 or
About the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit
Part of the Eighth Judicial Administrative District of Georgia, the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit includes the Superior Courts and Juvenile Courts in eight counties, including: Baldwin, Greene, Hancock, Jasper, Jones, Morgan, Putnam and Wilkinson. It is also home to the award-winning Baldwin County Adult Treatment Court Collaborative, one of the first braided mental health and substance abuse courts in the nation.
About River Edge
River Edge has provided comprehensive mental health, addictive disease, and developmental disabilities services and supports in Central Georgia since 1950. Through multiple locations, River Edge currently serves more than 12,000 youth and adult residents of Bibb, Baldwin, Jones, Monroe, Putnam, Twiggs, Wilkinson and surrounding counties annually.  With special expertise to assist individuals with intensive support needs, River Edge empowers, encourages recovery and strengthens resilience. River Edge accepts Medicaid, Medicare, most private insurance and offers a sliding scale fee for individuals without insurance.
Media contacts: Amy Michaud, (478) 445-7060 or or Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 803-7800 or