Hall County’s accountability courts will keep their contract with a counseling service that is under a state investigation, county Court Administrator Reggie Forrester said.
According to a GBI report, the agency launched its investigation into New Hope Counseling of Cumming at the request of Enotah Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Raymond George, who stated that New Hope bought equipment and supplies not provided to the accountability courts.
Forrester said judges, administrators and New Hope owners met Friday morning to discuss how to proceed. They decided to keep the contract on the condition of strict oversight from New Hope’s management.
“There’s a lot of conversation right now about what’s going on with New Hope in adjoining circuits. Yes, Hall County courts does have a relationship with New Hope counseling services, but ours is different, I think, from the other counties,” he said.
“They were participating with other counties in terms of grants, equipment purchases.”
Hall County’s participation stops at contracting qualified, licensed counselors from New Hope for DUI and drug court programs.
“We’ve had an excellent relationship with New Hope in that they provide qualified, licensed personnel to us for counseling, and our relationship has never had anything questioned about it,” Forrester said. “They comply with their agreement with us, each and every day.”
Forrester said that the county’s agreement with New Hope is funded by the participants’ payments and revenues generated from the Drug, Alcohol, Treatment and Education fund.
Though there had never been any problems between the county and New Hope, Forrester said, reports of the GBI investigation has prompted caution going forward.
“We’re going to move cautiously,” he said. “We’re going to be making preparations if it becomes necessary, and the courts believe their relationship is in jeopardy, or the participants’ relationship is in jeopardy. We’re going to be prepared to make immediate changes.”
Ultimately, he said, the decision came down to balancing the best interest of the courts and participants while staying mindful of the investigation.
“That’s been a decision our treatment judges have been weighing for days,” Forrester said. “But at the end of day, we have a long-running professional relationship with New Hope And we have over 100 DUI participants, and a number of early intervention participants, and if we cease doing business with New Hope today, then it might be two months, two and a half, to do a bid and find a company. That might create a less-than-palatable service for the participants we have in our programs.”