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Counseling center closes branch
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As of Monday, Dawson County no longer had a branch office of New Hope Counseling, which is reportedly the focus of a state investigation.

But according to Court Administrator Reggie Forrester, only part of the treatment court system in Dawson had been using New Hope.

The DUI treatment court used the counseling service for its participants instead of using an in-house counselor like the drug treatment court.

Currently, there are only about five participants in the DUI court.

The closing comes amid a probe of New Hope by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

According to a GBI report, the agency launched its investigation into New Hope Counseling of Cumming at the request of Enotah Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Raymond George, who stated that New Hope bought equipment and supplies not provided to the accountability courts.

"George recognized the accountability courts in Lumpkin and Union counties were operating with minimal supplies and equipment and found information which caused him concern," the report stated.

The judicial circuit also includes Towns and White counties.

As part of the probe, the GBI searched New Hope's offices in Cumming, 330 Dahlonega St., and in Gainesville on Sept. 24.

"Prior to any of the investigations, New Hope notified us about closing their [Dawson] office on Sept. 30," Forrester said. "They stated that there were not enough participants in Dawson County to justify leasing an office."

The funds received by New Hope to continue office operations are paid for by the court participants, not the court system itself.

The contract with the county remains in place, with DUI court participants being given the option of attending counseling at New Hope's Gainesville office or completing phase one of Dawson County's drug treatment court, which has a parallel track, according to Forrester.

The Forsyth County contract with New Hope was "terminated for cause" last week under a clause stating the county can end the agreement if the agency fails to perform.

Hall County, which with Dawson forms the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, is maintaining what was described as an "excellent relationship" with New Hope.

Forrester said that the Dawson arm of the treatment court system would consider contract with New Hope at a later date, when participation numbers increased.

"We have an excellent relationship with New Hope," he said. "Currently, we are taking no position for Dawson and Hall counties. We are going to cautiously continue working with them until any further information is presented."

Alyssa LaRenzie and Emma Witman of the DCN regional staff contributed to this report.