Judge Jeri Beth Cohen
This is an excerpt from an application nominating Judge Cohen for a national award submitted and written by Dr. Gayle Dakof, University of Miami Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.
Leadership Related To Issues Impacting Families In The Child Welfare System Affected by Substance Abuse/Improved The Delivery of Services To Families, Groups, or Communities
Judge Cohen has been a dependency court judge in the State of Florida 11th Judicial Circuit Court since 1996 after having spent four years in the criminal division where she developed an innovative treatment oriented DUI program. Building on her work in the DUI division she brought principles and practices of therapeutic jurisprudence to the family/dependency court. Her contributions, both locally and nationally, in the areas of substance abuse, child welfare, and family/dependency court are tremendous. She is an exemplary Judge who created and implemented a highly successful model dependency/family drug court; has directly, effectively, and repeatedly improved child welfare, substance abuse treatment, health, and supportive housing services in Miami; has brought NIH-funded research to her Dependency Drug Court, and as a result is developing an evidence-based family/dependency drug court model; collaborates successfully with child welfare, substance abuse treatment providers, mental health treatment providers, government agencies, and university researchers; and most importantly has saved the lives of thousands of parents and children.
Dependency Drug Court
In 1999 Judge Cohen established the first Dependency Drug Court in Miami and one of the first in the nation. From that time to the present this court has been recognized as an exemplary court. Approximately, 1,000 children have participated in the Miami Dependency Drug Court since its inception. The success of the DDC is impressive: the Dependency Drug Court founded by Judge Cohen demonstrates consistently high reunification rates, averaging 68%, with the newest dependency drug court model showing 81% reunification rates. Although the drug court is a collaborative effort, it could not be as successful as it is today without the effective and strong leadership of its founder, Judge Cohen. The Judge brought together child welfare, substance abuse treatment and other providers, housing agencies, and University of Miami researchers to collaborate in the development and implementation of the drug court. Moreover, her constant oversight, monitoring, and demands for excellence have kept all the partners collaborating effectively.
Dependency Court, Recovery, and Child Welfare
Although the success of the Miami Dade Dependency Drug Court is tremendous, Judge Cohen has also contributed to improving the lives of drug abusing families in the child welfare and dependency court systems in others ways too. First, Judge Cohen has worked tirelessly over the years to support and develop supportive housing facilities for parents in the dependency system, knowing that without adequate housing long term recovery is in serious jeopardy. Second, she regularly monitors substance abuse treatment providers to assure that they are providing the highest quality of care. For example, on at least two separate occasions she launched an investigation and organized a task force to improve children services at a local Women & Children substance abuse program. These investigations led to tremendous improvement in services for both children (child safety, health care, and day care services) and parents (adoption of an evidence-based trauma focused substance abuse treatment program) at the treatment program. Recently, she was concerned that yet another local substance abuse treatment program was not providing high quality care to parents in dependency court. She gathered all concerned parties and demanded improvement. Her involvement resulted in an extensive revision of this program to make it more gender responsive; confrontational approaches were eliminated and the program added parenting classes and gender-specific programming.

Judge Cohen recently organized a training seminar on trauma focused evidence based substance abuse treatment programs for staff of substance abuse programs who serve parents in the Miami dependency court system, and strongly encouraged them (one might say "ordered" them) to adopt one of these programs. At least two of the programs attending the seminar are now implementing one of the programs introduced to them by Judge Cohen.

There can be no doubt that Judge Cohen's consistent monitoring of child welfare and substance abuse treatment has led to better services in Miami. Everybody in the Miami child welfare and substance abuse treatment community knows that Judge Cohen demands high quality service and that she is watching. The impact she has had on improving the quality of substance abuse treatment services for parents involved in the child welfare system cannot be overstated.

Teaching and Professional Presentations
Judge Cohen has considerable knowledge not only concerning legal and judicial matters pertaining to dependency/family court but also in substance abuse, child welfare, and drug courts. Hence, she has been asked by many national organizations (e.g., National Judicial College, American Society of Addiction Medicine, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Florida Advanced Judicial College) and governmental bodies (NIDA, SAMHSA, DOJ) to teach, present, and otherwise share her knowledge with others in the field. Recently, she was invited by SAMHSA to conduct a workshop with her colleagues from the University of Miami on their research on drug court at Women, Addiction & Recovery: News You Can Use Conference in Anaheim (Dakof, Cohen & Duarte, The Engaging Moms Drug Court, June 2006). Participants at that workshop gave it extremely high marks, and especially appreciated Judge Cohen's contribution. In September 2006, she was invited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to participate in an expert panel on drug courts: A National Institute on Drug Abuse Scientific Meeting, Drug Court and Other Problem Solving Courts-State of the Science, Bethesda 2006.
Judge Cohen has been an investigator or partner on several federally-funded research projects, including one of the first examinations of family drug court. Currently, she is an investigator on a NIDA-funded randomized clinical trial designed to test the comparative effectiveness of two different dependency drug court models. This study is one of the first, if not the first, randomized clinical trial conducted in a dependency drug court setting. It was through Judge Cohen's vision and leadership that such a study has been successfully implemented (i.e., recruitment of participants, random assignment, informed consent, delivery of the two models, and data collection). The study is still ongoing. The last follow-up assessment (18 months) will be collected in October 2007 with data analysis and publications shortly thereafter. Judge Cohen as a key investigator will be actively involved in these publications.
Improved Collaboration Among The Substance Abuse, Child Welfare, and Family Court Systems
It is evident that Judge Cohen has had a vital role in enhancing collaboration among substance abuse, child welfare, and the court systems. Her Dependency Drug Court is a daily collaborative effort among substance abuse treatment, child welfare and the court. These are challenging collaborations which require Judge Cohen's constant leadership to keep them focused and productive. Her work is also noted for collaboration with university researchers and university-based program. In order to improve dependency court, substance abuse treatment and child welfare Judge Cohen has brought university experts in child development (University of Miami: Lynne Katz) and substance abuse treatment (University of Miami: Gayle Dakof; University of South Florida: Coleen Clark) to work within the court system. Moreover, she is committed to collaborating with universities to bring scientifically rigorous research to dependency court.
Personal and Professional Attributes That Uniquely Characterize Development of Relationships Across Systems
Judge Cohen uses her considerable personal and professional attributes to enhance collaboration across systems in order to improve these systems locally and nationally. She is highly intelligent, creative, and charismatic. She is a tremendous leader and collaborator; inspires commitment and dedication in others, demands excellence, and is a superb role model. Her dedication, sharp intelligence, dependability, and "do what it takes" attitude inspires everybody who comes in contact with her to work harder and better. It is remarkable how Judge Cohen has become an expert in areas outside of the legal profession. She is very versed in substance abuse, substance abuse treatment, trauma, co-morbidity, child development, and family dynamics. This competence beyond her chosen field (law) distinguishes her among judges, and greatly contributes to the success she has had in bringing systems together, enhancing cross system collaboration, improving substance abuse and child welfare services, and bringing high quality research to the court setting. Psychologists and social workers frequently comment on the breath and depth of her knowledge in these fields. She is a tremendous collaborator and leader - herself collaborating with different systems and using her considerable leadership skills to enhance collaboration among the various systems.