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Magistrate Fred Miller continues helping northern Blair youths with underage drinking problems

Magistrate Fred Miller is continuing to see the results of a program he instituted several months ago to help underage drinkers in the northern Blair County area.
The Youth at Risk intervention program is similar to ones being run by Blair County and Magistrate Miller indicated he’s run such a program since he’s been in office by originally using the White Deer Run facility in Altoona.
A few months ago, Miller began working with Tyrone Hospital and Pyramid Healthcare to create a program which would allow offenders a chance to obtain the services without having to travel to Altoona.
“Some of the underage offenders in the Tyrone School District may actually live in Huntingdon or Centre County but they commit an offense in Blair County and their case comes before me,” said Miller.
“I didn’t want a transportation issue getting in the way of them or others getting the help they need,” Miller told The Daily Herald.
“I wanted to eliminate any obstacle for them or their parents.”
The idea of the program is to offer the offenders a way to help them instead of punishing them.
“Magistrate Miller’s program is patterned after ones being offered by the county,” said Judy Rosser, the Blair County drug and alcohol administrator.
“His program is similar to ones being run by the county,” said Rosser.
“We’ve been offering these for about a decade and have been working with the district justices throughout the county.
“These programs are through the court’s discretion,” said Rosser.
“A magistrate has to get permission from President Judge Thomas Peoples for permission to operate the program since it is a form of alternative sentencing.
“We look at it as an intervention program,” said Rosser.
“This is a way to get them education and assessment. The earlier we can intervene the better and it is important to have the district justices involved.
“With these types of programs we can get them referred into services so their needs can be assessed and addressed,” said Rosser.
Last year when the local program first got underway, Miller indicated it was being offered to adolescents who had been charged with an alcohol or drug related offense, but said he wanted to target the specific issue of underage drinking.
The program consists of a counselor conducting a drug and alcohol evaluation.
If the underage offender is recommended and accepts the program, there are three weekly group sessions with one of the sessions being a family session.
If the need exists for further counseling or treatment, the person will be required to follow through with the program.
If the program isn\’t completed, any fines are restored as if they never entered the program.
Miller estimates that the vast majority facing underage drinking offenses volunteer to enter the program.
Pre-registration with the Tyrone Hospital is required and there is a $50 program cost which must be paid before starting the program and involving a family member for the family counseling session.
Miller also attends some of the earlier sessions to offer support to those participating in the program.
The district justice will also be attending an event later this week in State College for further training on the issue of underage drinking.