San Juan County Drug Court Celebrates First Anniversary
Posted March 4, 2020 at 5:45 am by Peggy Sue McRae
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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