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Children’s Justice Center meets growing needs

Above, Canadian County commissioners approved a change order Monday to install wood-look paneling like that in other courtrooms in the county in the new courtroom that is part of an addition to the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center. Above left, Canadian County Associate District Judge Bob Hughey speaks at a strategic planning meeting for a family justice center that will unify services for victims of domestic voilence. “No one agency has all the services that victims need,” he said. Photos / Chris Eversole

The Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center turned 20 this year, and it’s getting ready to provide more service to the community than ever – through a $3.9 million addition, through housing the planned family justice center and through hiring three new members of its leadership team.
The changes will make the center even more of a leader for serving youth who have become involved in the justice system, said Associate District Judge Bob Hughey, who oversees the center.
“People all over the state visit because they want to copy us,” he said.
The juvenile justice center is funded by a .35 percent sales tax – something most other counties don’t have to serve troubled youth.
“They can’t touch what we do, including having our own in-
patient drug treatment facility,” Hughey said.
Monday, the Canadian County commissioners approved what they expect to be the final major change order for the addition, which they say will be completed midyear.
The $67,697 addition to the contract with Pillar Contracting will provide paneling with the wood-look of other courtrooms in the county.
The paneling is a synthetic product, not natural wood, because the current fire code forbids wood in this application, Assistant Director Cedric Mills said.
“It will have the classic courtroom look,” Mills said.
Commissioner Marc Hader noted that several change orders have been necessary due to site conditions that came to light during construction.
“I was wondering if we were going for something luxurious here and there, but I appreciate the explanation,” he said.
Commissioner David Anderson said he favored making the courtroom’s look consistent with other courtrooms.
In addition to the new courtroom, which will supplement an existing one, the 12,000-square-foot addition will provide additional workspace for sheriff’s deputies assigned to the center, a new space for drug testing and two storm shelters.
The storm shelters were a priority because the juvenile justice center is to the east of the Canadian Valley Technology Center, which was destroyed by a tornado in May 2013.
Last week, the commissioners decided to use a section of the new construction as the initial home for a family justice center.
They approved a $53,982 change order that will convert the space to the family justice center’s needs – including providing its own entrance and additional parking.
The family justice center will provide a one-stop facility to serve the victims of domestic violence.
This will allow them to meet with representatives of various offices that serve them instead of having to navigate back and forth among offices, Anderson said.
As for the juvenile justice center’s leadership, the director’s position became vacant when Hughey fired Daniel Kern following an investigation of complaints of sexual harassment.
Two other top positions are vacant – one of the two assistant directors’ spots and the director of behavioral health position.
Hughey hopes to fill the director position by the end of January with the help of the center’s advisory board.
The applicants total 176 people, including Mills, Hughey said.
The new director will take the lead in filling the positions of assistant director and director of behavioral health, Hughey said.
Hughey said he’s please that the center is meeting growing needs.
He illustrated the growth over the 20 years by saying that when he started hearing cases there in 2008, this work took only 40% of his time.
Since then, he’s 100% there, and he has a court referee, who hears cases 20 hours a week.
“All the change will help us meet the special needs of juveniles so they can become productive citizens,” he said.

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