$100,000 from feds boosts drug court effort

Island County won a $100,000 federal grant this fall to help people in drug court stay on the straight and narrow.

Mike Merringer, the Island County court administrator, explained that early in the year the Adult Drug Court team met to discuss ways to improve the program. One of the goals they came up with was to help participants gain vocational skills and employment.

As a result, they applied for and received a grant from the Office of Justice Programs and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Andrew Somers, the coordinator for the county’s adult drug court, said the money will be used to fund four programs over two years.

First of all, a half-time person from Northwest WorkSource will be dedicated to working with drug court participants on things like interviewing techniques, job searches, skills analyses, applications, resumes; also, WorkSource will assist with referrals, community contacts and case management.

Northwest WorkSource is a service agency that works with the Department of Social and Human Services and the Employment Security Office to provide the public with employment and training services.

In addition, the grant will fund expanded drug testing to cover the weekends. And the money will pay for a case management system and database that will allow the court officials to analyze the drug court program.

Finally, the grant will help fund the drug court team’s participation in a national conference for drug courts next year. The team includes representatives from prosecution, defense, law enforcement and the court, as well as a therapist specializing in treating chemical dependency.

Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill oversees the adult drug court, while Judge Alan Hancock is the juvenile drug court judge.

Somers said the ultimate goal of the grant, and the drug court itself, is to reduce recidivism among participants. Not only does that save individuals from a lifetime of hardship, but drug courts save the community great amounts of money.

“There is no question that drug courts work,” Somers said. “It’s been proven by numerous, numerous research studies that it is very effective.”

The goal, he said, is to make the program as effective as possible.

People who are eligible for drug court are those who have committed non-violent crimes and have been diagnosed with a drug or alcohol abuse or dependency problem. It’s a two-year program that requires a commitment of intensive treatment and supervision, as well as compliance with rigorous conditions.

Ultimately, the court will dismiss criminal charges against those who successfully complete the program.

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