New Court Program Offers Treatment in Lackawanna County

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Every Thursday at 9 a.m. inside the Lackawanna County Government Center at the Globe Judge Julia Munley holds court but it's nothing like the court these defendants are used to.

"I mean, I used to go every week but my hands were behind my back, it wasn't ever voluntarily," said Mark Dennis.

It's a bit more informal.

"I don't see them as an issue to come visit every week, I like being here," said Liam M.

This is Lackawanna County's weekly meeting of the support diversion program. It's designed for addicts who have fallen behind in child support payments.

"It's an informal court, if you will, we go through the list of things that they have to do, and I always ask them, `how is this week? How was this week since we last met?" said Judge Munley.

Liam M. from Scranton has been in the program for three months.

"It was either 6 months in jail or this, and I was a month sober at the time and life had smacked me in the face, I had to make a decision, if I wanted to live or if I wanted to die," said Liam.

Participation in the program is still hard work. They have to maintain a job, make their payments and take part in treatment for their addiction.

Mark Dennis is a graduate but still chooses to come to court every Thursday.

"I started this program with no direction, no idea how to live life, like I said, through this program and some solid people in my support group which is really big as well. I'm celebrating 14 months sober now. I'm in counseling with my oldest son," said Dennis.

Both men have rebuilt relationships and kept sober since starting the program.

"When we know how serious the opioid epidemic is and see how many people are dying every day, every chance we get to change the intervention point means one more life that we can save," said Judge Michael Barrasse.

Officials say since the Support Diversion Court Program started about 18 months ago they've collected more than $50,000 in back child support payments which then go to support families.

They estimate they've saved about a $250,000 because each graduate in the program avoids a six-month jail sentence.

2 comments

  • kristinag1990

    Most people receiving child support and/or claiming a child as a dependent on their taxes is the primary care taker of the child. So yes it is fair. If men took care of their children in the first place, mothers would not have to worry about filing for child support.

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