The Yurok Tribal Court is partnering with Del Norte County Superior Court to share jurisdiction over a program that’s hoped to help families struggling with substance abuse.

According to a release from the courts, the new Family Wellness Court is a cutting-edge program designed to help families break the cycle of addiction, which is sometimes the root cause of child abuse and neglect. The program has been in place in Humboldt County since July 2017 and is now active in Del Norte County.

Darren McElfresh, the presiding judge of the Del Norte Superior Court and Abby Abinanti, the Yurok Tribal Court’s chief justice, with input from more than 40 stakeholders, have been working continuously since August 2018 when they agreed on a shared vision of improving outcomes for children, families, and communities by administering justice in a safe and supportive environment that empowers families to create positive change, the release states.

“I am so proud of how our communities have come together to create a better way of doing things when it comes to our families who are struggling with substance abuse and have children in the child welfare system,” said McElfresh.

“We are neighbors who have developed a rural model that holds families accountable and each other accountable. We trust that when our families stumble, we will be there together to catch them,” said Abinanti.

Joseph L. James, the chairman of the Yurok Tribe, said the opioid crisis has no boundaries and requires collaboration to address.

“The joint jurisdictional court will benefit the whole community. It is also an excellent model of intergovernmental partnership, which can be duplicated in courts in California and around the country,” he said.

Del Norte County District Attorney Katherine Micks said she hopes her office will be able to extend the joint approach to other matters.

““The Joint Family Wellness Court with its harm reduction and coordinated team approach will connect children and families to their cultures, create culturally competent services, and help our families, improving justice outcomes in our tribal nations and surrounding communities,” she said.

According to the courts, judges will work collaboratively to identify solutions that best fit each specific family.

Family Wellness Court participants will be assigned a team, which will ensure access to the most relevant resources in each jurisdiction.

According to the release, the Joint Family Wellness Court will serve as a model in the state and nation, and was provided through a grant from the Court Innovations Grant Program.