Guilford County government has a new team of employees on the county’s payroll.

People who work in the Guilford County Recovery Courts – a special part of the court system that helps defendants with substance abuse problems get off drugs rather than just tossing them in prison, and that helps people who commit crimes due to mental illness get the care they need – are now county employees.

Guilford County government has been funding the Recovery Courts program for almost two decades. However, the Recovery Courts’ employees have been shifted around administratively from one body to another over the years. Now the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has finalized the transfer of those employees to Guilford County.

The Guilford County Recovery Courts program has seen several moves in this century. The positions have been moved administratively at various times from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC-G), through different Guilford County departments, and, in recent years, the positions were assumed by Sandhills Center, the administrative entity that handles mental health care in Guilford County.  

County staff and court workers determined that it would be better if the Recovery Courts had “a closer level of day to day programmatic management” from Guilford County government. This means the county will add the seven current positions to its payroll and existing staff will become county employees. Currently, five of those seven positions are filled.

It won’t cost taxpayers any new money because the county is already footing the bill for the program that’s gotten a lot of praise over the years.

The program’s annual operating cost is about $429,000 and the transfer will be official on Thursday, Oct. 1.

Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne, whose department will oversee the program, said this move will help cut out a bunch of administrative middle ground.

Payne stated in an email that, originally, Guilford County paid the courts for what was, in effect, a pilot program in North Carolina.

“For a time after that,” Payne wrote, “the State, through the AOC [Administrative Office of the Courts], took over funding and funded Recovery Courts in Guilford County and several other larger counties. That funding dried up and, in order to keep the recovery courts functioning, Guilford County agreed to fund the programs through UNC-G.”

At that point the court workers were UNC-Greensboro employees and were funded by contract using Guilford County money administered through Sandhills.  

Those positions have been at UNC-G for about a decade.

According to Payne, it makes sense for those workers to be Guilford County employees rather than continue to have intermediaries in the mix.