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District Justice Miller aims to help youth with new program

There are many juvenile cases that come before District Justice Fred Miller that deal with drugs or alcohol. In an attempt to help the kids instead of punish them, Miller has teamed with Tyrone Hospital and Pyramid Healthcare to create a Youth at Risk program for underage drinking.
“This program will, at the court’s discretion, be offered to adolescents who have been charged with an alcohol or drug related offense,” said Miller. “At this time, the program will be targeted for those committing the offense of underage drinking.”
The program consists of a drug and alcohol evaluation conducted by an addictions counselor. Then if the juvenile is recommended and accepts the program, there are three weekly group sessions for an hour and one of the three sessions will include a family session. If it is determined there is a need for further counseling or treatment, the juvenile will be required to follow through with the program. If the program isn’t completed, the fines that the juvenile is facing for the offenses is restored.
“We are stressing to them not to be drinking,” said Miller. “Right now we are starting to fill the first class at Tyrone. We want to help find out if there is a problem and get the kids the treatment that they need. We want to help stop the problem now before the offenses escalate.”
Miller estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of juveniles who are facing underage drinking offenses volunteer to enter the program. The juveniles will need to pre-register with the Tyrone Hospital, pay the $50 program costs before starting and involve a family member for the family counseling session.
“The juveniles face a stiff fine for underage drinking to go along with a suspension of their driver’s license,” said Miller. “The school districts are working on No Child Left Behind. I believe that it is the communities’ responsibility to not leave any of these kids behind. We want to help correct the problem before it gets too far. We can’t afford to lose any more kids to drugs or alcohol.”
The Youth at Risk Program has been in effect through Miller’s courtroom with the White Deer Run facility in Altoona. With the location at Tyrone, Miller will accept no excuses for the program not being completed.
“We had some of the juveniles have transportation issues with the Altoona program,” said Miller. “With the program taking place at Tyrone Hospital, it will make transportation a non-issue. I am more than thrilled to receive the support of Tyrone Hospital and Pyramid Healthcare in starting this program.”
If the juvenile offenders complete the Youth at Risk program, the fines they are facing will be dropped, but the driver’s license suspension and court costs will still need to be paid.
“Our long term goal is to get the kids the help that they need,” said Miller. “I will be attending some of the early sessions to show the kids that I will understand what they are going through and will be able to show them that help is available.”