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Maryland Judges Take Steps to Reduce the Stigma of Behavioral Health Issues at Gaudenzia Conference

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Judges in Maryland have a special role to play in helping people with substance use disorders – call it the Power of the Robe.

That was a key takeaway from a recent conference of judges that was hosted by the Judicial College of Judges at the Crownsville location of Gaudenzia Inc., the largest non-profit residential substance abuse treatment provider in Maryland.

Why the Power of the Robe? It stems from Maryland’s implementation of the HG8-507 statute that allows judges to commit those who have been convicted of certain crimes to treatment centers such as Gaudenzia. The idea is to treat the disorder that is leading them to commit crimes so that they can get their lives in order and avoid ending up back in a courtroom.

“It’s important for judges who sign HG8-507 orders to understand the power that they have in affecting change in someone’s life,” said Kristy Blalock, Chesapeake region director for Gaudenzia. “They are part of a team that has the best interest in a person’s success and long-term recovery.

The Judicial College of Judges, in partnership with Gaudenzia, holds similar conferences twice a year to train Maryland judges on the use, importance and relevance of HG-8-507. This specific conference provided an opportunity for the judicial community to better understand the disease of addiction and how choosing an 8-507 order helps in reducing the stigma for those who have committed crimes due to their struggles with addiction and mental health disorders. It also gave judges the chance to interact with professionals who are on the frontlines of the addiction and mental health epidemic. A dozen judges from different jurisdictions across Maryland attended, and two other judges served on the panel of presenters.

Gaudenzia has hosted the conferences for the past two years and has committed to do so through at least 2023. For Gaudenzia, the conferences underscore its commitment to treating substance use disorders in a holistic, community-wide manner, focusing on the importance of partnerships and building relationships with parole and probation officials, community behavioral health providers and others aimed at serving those battling addiction and other behavioral health disorders.

“The partnerships between the crisis system, parole and probation and the state are a model for how the HG8-507 process should be carried out,” Blalock said. “We are able to talk specifically about what we do, the importance of the relationship with the courts and treatment providers and how we work with probation and the state to serve the criminal justice population – all with the same common goal of helping the person attain an maintain long term recovery in all aspects of their life.”

Judges left the conference with a better understanding of substance use disorders, the disease of addiction and the cycle of recovery, she said. One key message to reduce the stigma is that recovery is possible, even among those who have failed in the past (sometimes multiple times) or been in and out of the criminal justice system. Gaudenzia operates six facilities in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County. , Gaudenzia is a critical lifeline to residents in Maryland, regardless of life circumstances, and is one of the few providers to operate a full continuum of services.

Since 2001, Gaudenzia has partnered with the state to help more than 6,000 people in the HG8-507 program, giving them a path to a productive life. Gaudenzia provides approximately 60% of all HG8-507 treatment services in Maryland. For more information about treatment options with Gaudenzia, please call 833-976-4357.

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