By Traci Chapman
County Commissioners have taken a major step in making a Canadian County Family Justice Center a reality, approving a move that will give that center a home.
That home will be at the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center, 7905 E Highway 66 in El Reno.
Commissioners last week took the official step of locating the new facility at CCCJC when they approved a $53,983 change order.
That move would reallocate offices being constructed at the center from their original purpose – for district attorneys housed at the site charged with handling juvenile matters – to an entry, reception and office area for the new Family Justice Center.
Work has been ongoing on an expansion at the children’s justice center for several months. That project will add a new lab facility, courtroom and offices, storm shelters and administrative space.
As work continues – and after looking at options throughout the county, including the former El Reno Parkview/Mercy Hospital building – officials said making some changes to the children’s justice center just made sense.
“I am very excited about this – it’s been quite a journey,” County Commissioners’ Chairman David Anderson said. “This is a great utilization of this space.”
While Canadian County is known within the state of Oklahoma and beyond for its work with juveniles – both juvenile offenders and troubled youth dealing with addiction and other issues, as well as those in need of adjudication on their behalf, including children in foster care, protective services and the like – there has been a void when it came to domestic and sexual assault victims and survivors, officials said.
Associate District Judge Bob Hughey said Anderson talked about the idea of making a change to what was planned as area for the county district attorneys’ office at the juvenile center.
“We have been working on a new space that would give them additional space they badly need,” Judge Hughey said last week. “We were able to make those changes with a change order of just under $53,983 that allowed us to make revisions to that area to entry, reception and offices for the Family Justice Center.”
The quarters would fulfill several needs for the FJC – providing the security and privacy needed for anyone hoping to take advantage of services that will be offered by the FJC, while also located near related services already on-site at the children’s justice center, officials said.
It was the center that greatly impressed both Alliance for Hope representatives who first met with the officials working to spearhead the family justice center concept in Canadian County.
Those leaders – Anderson, Hughey, District Attorney Mike Fields and Sheriff Chris West – have worked with project coordinator Kristie Chandler since hiring her in August to find a location for the center, which they hoped to bring online next year, they said.
“This is a great step to take as we move forward with our work to provide Family Justice Center services to Canadian County,” Hughey said. “This really can make such a positive difference for so many people.”
Other work also continues behind the scenes as the project moves toward fruition, officials said.
Workgroups will recommence meeting in January, Anderson said, working on several items necessary to make the center successful from the start, he said.
“We are all so excited to be a part of something like this, to see all the excitement we’ve seen in response to the idea,” Anderson said earlier this year.