Justice Matters with Bryan Porter: Treatment Court’s first graduate

Justice Matters with Bryan Porter: Treatment Court’s first graduate
(Courtesy photo)

The Alexandria Substance Abuse Treatment Court is an exciting new program in which a host of city agencies has implemented an intensive addiction recovery program that addresses the root cause of anti-social behavior. I am proud my office is one of the founding participatory agencies

The ATC’s goals are to identify residents whose criminal behavior was caused by substance abuse and enhance public safety by treating one of the underlying causes of criminality. Graduates of the program are placed in a position where they can be healthy, productive members of the Alexandria community.

In January, the first resident successfully graduated from the ATC. The graduation ceremony was a powerful testament to how the pro- gram can positively change the lives of participants. The ceremony was moving for those in attendance, and a well-deserved celebration of the graduate.

Due in large part to the hard work of Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord, the ATC was recently awarded a federal grant that will allow the program to increase the number of participants in the program and hire a new treatment provider and administrator. Once these positions are filled, the ATC should be able to increase the authorized number of enrollees in the program.

The ATC would not be possible without the collective efforts of a number of city agencies, including the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, Alexandria Pretrial Services and Local Probation ACJS, the Office of the Public Defender, the Circuit Court, the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services, the Office of Probation & Parole, the Alexandria Police Department and the City Manager’s Office.

This effort required agencies to join together to create and submit a collaborative application to the Virginia Supreme Court. The shared workload of these varied agencies is a clear example of how partnerships can create positive change.

The Substance Abuse Treatment Court is a fitting complement to my office’s Mental Health Initiative, which launched in 2018 and about which I have previously written in this column. The MHI seeks to avoid incarceration and where possible, a conviction, for select defendants whose mental illness contributed to anti-social behavior.

MHI maintains community safety by being selective with allowing participation, utilizing pretrial monitoring and by requiring focused mental health treatment and probation monitoring.

Additionally, military veterans and those suffering from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury are eligible. While there are many stipulations to this docket, if an offense involved a victim, the victim’s input is solicited before a final decision is made. Further, in order to be accepted into the program, the defendant and the defendant’s attorney must ultimately agree to participate.

Finally, it my pleasure to announce the hiring of Sara Kulumani, who assumes a brand new position, special assistant for rehabilitative programs. Kulumani’s impressive resume includes service as an officer in the U.S. Army, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, an MBA with a focus on organizational leadership and a role as district manager for a large, national corporation.

Kulumani’s decision to return to public service was prompted after volunteering to be a leader for a women’s 12-step recovery program in 2019. She is responsible for connecting the Alexandria community and enlarging the scope of our rehabilitative programs, such as the ATC and the MHI. Ultimately, any resident who successfully completes our rehabilitative programs is a triumph for our community.

I am privileged to represent a community that both appreciates the need for rehabilitative programs and encourages their use and application. I am just as fortunate to work for a city government that supports such programs and thank the city manager’s office and my office’s partner agencies for their collaboration. Look for more success stories in this space in the months to come.

The writer is Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alexandria.