As I have said in many prior columns, substance abuse and/or mental health problems are substantial contributing factors to crimes committed in the west Georgia community. For years, the criminal justice system had the wrong approach in dealing with these issues.

Fortunately, with the election of Nathan Deal as our governor, a treatment based approach has been instituted into many of our courts. Governor Deal has changed the way that we deal with non-violent crime in an amazingly swift fashion. This has already saved our state a tremendous amount of taxpayer money as well.

Because of this new approach to crime and crime prevention, I wanted to share with you a meeting I had this week with the staff at Willowbrooke at Tanner. Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I do not have any business affiliation with Tanner and am not being paid to mention them in this column.

Additionally, there are hundreds of other treatment facilities across the state that I have used to assist my clients with addiction and mental health issues. Many of these facilities are wonderful and I will continue to rely on their services. However, I want to mention Willowbrooke because I have just become aware of their comprehensive program that I believe will have a large impact on our local criminal justice system.

There are 5 locations in the west Georgia area; Carrollton, Villa Rica, Bremen, Newnan, and Cartersville. Each of these locations provide free, confidential drug and alcohol/mental health screenings to determine what level of care an individual needs. Their clients then receive referrals to community services or a Willowbrooke at Tanner program. Master’s level, highly skilled mental health clinicians facilitate the screenings.

Willowbrooke also offers a wide variety of services:

INPATIENT CARE – They offer a short stay acute care program for people who are experiencing severe mental health and chemical dependency issues;

PARTIAL HOSPITALIZATION – For people struggling to cope with everyday struggles but who are not in need of inpatient care, a second level of care is provided;

CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PROGRAM – This program is suitable for our juvenile courts across west Georgia. The program accepts clients ages 5-17 with behavioral disorders, emotional issues, and/or substance abuse problems. I think this program is particularly important because it addresses these issues at the first available opportunity in a young person’s life;

ADULT MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAM – This program is available for adults ages 18 and older who have a primary mental health diagnosis but also may have problems with substance abuse; and

TANNER CENTER FOR BEHAVIORAL HEALTH – The center, with locations in Carrollton and Villa Rica, provides outpatient counseling services to individuals of all ages.

ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS – The center now offers “program tracks” for the treatment of children and adolescents ages 5 to 17. The program tracks, which are designed to target one or more specific behavior problems, include: Anger Management, Bullying (victims and perpetrators), Depression, Shoplifting/Theft, Substance Abuse, Truancy, Appropriate Sexual Boundaries, and Self-Esteem/Social Issues.

Over the past 11 years, I have not seen a more comprehensive facility than what I have found at Willowbrooke at Tanner. I also have not seen a facility that provides so many services to children. The earlier that we as a society can address problems that will lead to crime, the healthier society will become.

I hope that our local judges, prosecutors, other lawyers, and each of you who care about the quality of life in west Georgia will take a look at what Willowbrooke at Tanner has to offer. I know that some of my future clients will be involved with this extraordinary facility.