San Juan County Drug Court Celebrates First Anniversary

Posted March 4, 2020 at 5:45 am by

Drug Court - Contributed photo

San Juan Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court launched a pilot Drug Court in Jan­u­ary 2019 with the sup­port of the local law and jus­tice community. 

Accord­ing to the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Drug Court Pro­fes­sion­als, approx­i­mate­ly one in ten Amer­i­can adults has a sub­stance use dis­or­der. Approx­i­mate­ly one in five has a men­tal health prob­lem. Many suf­fer from co-occur­ring sub­stance use and men­tal health dis­or­ders. San Juan Coun­ty is no different.

“Ther­a­peu­tic” courts like Drug Court have proven to be suc­cess­ful inter­ven­tions to help lift peo­ple with sub­stance use and men­tal health dis­or­ders out of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and into lives of recov­ery and sta­bil­i­ty. To do this, the drug court mod­el sus­pends the tra­di­tion­al crim­i­nal case. Instead, the par­tic­i­pant engages in fre­quent court appear­ances, treat­ment, super­vi­sion, and ulti­mate­ly attains fur­ther edu­ca­tion and/or employ­ment to sup­port sta­bil­i­ty mov­ing forward.

Drug Court is an incred­i­bly reward­ing expe­ri­ence. Par­tic­i­pants are amaz­ing in their will­ing­ness to engage, be account­able, and sup­port their fel­low par­tic­i­pants. Even in the first year, we are see­ing a trans­for­ma­tion in folks that will send rip­ple effects into our com­mu­ni­ty for years to come,” com­ment­ed Judge Katie Loring.

The drug court mod­el hinges on a mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary, team approach. The San Juan Coun­ty Drug Court team is com­prised of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Pub­lic Defend­er, Dis­trict Court Pro­ba­tion, Supe­ri­or Court, and Com­pass Health. Team mem­bers dia­logue before each court ses­sion to ana­lyze how best to sup­port and hold account­able participants.

San Juan Coun­ty Drug Court con­sists of four phas­es and is designed to last approx­i­mate­ly 18–24 months. Dur­ing the ear­ly phas­es, par­tic­i­pants must attend court at least twice per month and are engaged in reg­u­lar, inten­sive treat­ment. Dur­ing lat­er phas­es, par­tic­i­pants have few­er court and treat­ment oblig­a­tions and more time to engage in edu­ca­tion, train­ing, and employ­ment. To that end, par­tic­i­pants take an online life skills course and com­plete and imple­ment an empow­er­ment plan designed to estab­lish goals in the areas of recov­ery, community/family, health, education/training, employment/benefits, and hous­ing. By grad­u­a­tion, par­tic­i­pants should have the tools and con­fi­dence to move for­ward in their recov­ery as sta­ble mem­bers of our community.

We cur­rent­ly have five par­tic­i­pants at var­i­ous stages in the pro­gram. One par­tic­i­pant was ter­mi­nat­ed from the pro­gram for repeat­ed vio­la­tions. Thus far, inter­est and par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pro­gram has exceed­ed our expec­ta­tions and tar­gets. “This first year of Drug Court has been more suc­cess­ful than I ini­tial­ly thought pos­si­ble.  I’m so proud of our par­tic­i­pants and the progress they’ve made.  I’m con­fi­dent the com­mu­ni­ty will ben­e­fit from their suc­cess as well,” says Tere­sa Bar­nett, Deputy Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­ney for San Juan County.

On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office I would like to take a moment to rec­og­nize the Drug Court Pro­gram, its par­tic­i­pants and for our first suc­cess­ful year.   I have watched as the par­tic­i­pants have pro­gressed through the pro­gram and I am proud of every one of them and the progress that they have made.  Drugs have a huge impact on our com­mu­ni­ty and we rec­og­nize that this is a great pro­gram to give cit­i­zens that are hav­ing a hard time, the oppor­tu­ni­ty to suc­ceed.”  Says Zac Reimer, Under­sh­er­iff for the San Juan Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office. 

Drug Court is open to the pub­lic. Drug Court takes place on the first, third, and fifth Mon­days of each month at 1:15p.m. Pub­lic Defend­er Colleen Ken­i­mond encour­ages: “Any­body who wants to talk to me about sup­port­ing Drug Court or the par­tic­i­pants, please email me at:”

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