Success Story - Ms. R.

Sometimes at BCS we are asked by judges or attorneys to help a client by finding a unique solution appropriate to their situation. Special attention to individual cases is something that we are able to offer the court. One such case was brought to our attention a couple of weeks ago - Ms. R. The case had garnered some media attention, heightening the sense of urgency to respond to it appropriately. Ms. R. was facing a charge of child endangerment after an incident that occured while she was under the influence of narcotics. Though her lawyer was eager to get some help for Ms. R. because, as it almost always is, the details of the case tell a complicated story.

Ms. R. revealed to her attorney that she has been battling substance abuse for two years. The attorney felt strongly that jail would not be the best option for her due to a long history of trauma with which she was struggling to cope. We coordinated with a colleague at CCI who works with women who have experienced trauma. She knew of a treatment program that provided substance abuse treatment to women who have also experienced intimate partner violence.

The referral process is not always as straightforward as making a call and showing up, especially when the client in question is incarcerated and cannot simply show up at the program for an intake. Ms. R. would only be released on the condition of us finding her a program that would treat her, and her going directly to that program. We had to be sure ahead of time that she would be accepted by that program. Consent forms needed to be signed and sent to all parties (BCS, the client, Riker's Island, and the program), evaluations needed to be acquired and conducted, and then of course the court parties had to all agree that this would be an acceptable disposition. BCS was able to do this but it pulled in many staff members - three social workers, two resource coordinators, and even our Project Director stepped in.

Ultimately we were successful in enrolling Ms. R. in the treatment program, and the court was willing to offer her a mandated treatment program as an alternative to jail. We don't yet know how Ms. R.'s story will end, if she will turn a corner at this point in her life and make the necessary changes to stay sober, cope with her traumatic history and avoid future arrests. But I felt certain that at the very least we had done everything we could to give her an opportunity to make that change. Spending a year in jail would not likely have afforded her that chance.

- Robin Berg, BCS Deputy Project Director