CASA and opioid crisis focus of the State of the Judiciary

By Kirsten Nielsen
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush used her State of the Judiciary address to focus attention on the toll of the opioid crisis on Hoosier children.

In her fourth State of the Judiciary address Wednesday, Rush touched on issues revolving around the opioid epidemic, children in need of child welfare services and the courts’ efforts to digitize all legal filings.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorreta Rush gives her State of the Judiciary speech. Rush explained her aspirations for 2018. Photo by John Ward, TheStatehouseFile.com

Rush opened on a high note, noting that last November on Adoption Day more than 200 children were adopted into their forever home. Photos from that day flashed on screens in the House chamber.

But then she turned to the challenges faced by children whose families are in the care of the state Department of Child Services. She told the lawmakers that the increased funding for the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, known as CASA, came when it was needed most.

CASA volunteers serve as advocates for children in the court system and the additional revenue would allow more children to be supported through their parents’ addictions. Volunteers served 26,000 children in 2017, and they received more training last year than in the past.

Rush, who is co-chair of the National Judicial Opioid Task Force, said the judiciary is taking action to help solve the epidemic of addiction.

“Together, we must do everything,” Rush said in response to what can be done about this crisis.

She told members of Indiana House and Senate Wednesday that the judiciary is responding aggressively to the problem by partnering to deliver evidence-based court-ordered drug treatment, creating problem-solving courts to deal with the crisis, involving drug courts in child welfare cases and expanding CASA volunteers.

She also said the court is developing programs to start treatment in jail, use court technology to slow the drugs hitting the streets, and expand treatment and prevention programs.

Rush said this crisis forced a reorganization of the judiciary branch’s structure, an expansion and improvement of technology, and made judicial branch training more rigorous. She also noted that although they operate on less than one percent of the state budget, they are strong.

Judges can now cross county lines to aid other judges dealing with heavy caseloads via the adoption of a rule of efficiency and partnership.

Electronic filing was also implemented within the past two years and all of Indiana will be filing court documents electronically with in the next year, she said. It will make submitting documents to the courts faster and easier for everyone, creating a quicker turnaround.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, applauded Rush for her support of the children and adults affected by the opioid crisis.

“Today, Chief Justice Rush reaffirmed her support for helping those caught in the revolving door of incarceration due to drug addiction and assisting those who are left in its tremendous wake – Hoosier children,” said Bosma.

Kirsten Nielsen is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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