With over 100 graduates since the initiative began, the Adult Treatment Court Collaborative, often known simply as Drug Court, has given its participates a second chance at being productive citizens.
“Seventy-five percent of those completing Drug Court are never arrested again,” said master social worker Donna Vize, who works with the 31st Judicial District Adult Treatment Court Collaborative that serves Warren and Van Buren counties. “You can flip that number around for those who serve straight probation since it’s only 25 percent successful.”
Vize revealed there are 2,700 drug courts in the United States, most aimed at providing an alternative to incarceration while providing treatment and guidance to offenders. Vize said they look for persons who would be productive citizens if it weren’t for their addictions.
“Many start out with legitimate prescriptions but get addicted and have to get it by illegal means,” Vize said, noting treatment is a major part of the 18-month process which starts with a strict regimen that includes six months of house arrests, treatment, drug tests, court once a week, and employment. “We require they get employment and if they don’t, then they do public service work. If they still don’t get a job then they spend the weekends in jail. You’d be surprised how quickly they can find employment when the alternative is jail.”
Vize said on average in the first six months, which is phase-one of the program, employment levels for participants go from 30 percent to 80 percent. Vize said drug courts have learned they must not just treat the addiction, but also the mental condition that often goes with being an addict.
“We find 80 percent have co-occurring disorders,” Vize said, noting that means they have both an addiction and mental condition. “You have to treat both to be successful.”
Once a participant completes the restrictive phase-one of the program, they move to phase-two where court is just once every two weeks and there’s a 9 p.m. curfew. By phase three it becomes monthly court and an 11 p.m. curfew. After that comes graduation, with one such ceremony held earlier this month at the courthouse.
“I’ll be the first one to admit, there’s barely a dry eye in the house during graduation,” Vize said, noting many graduates are grateful for their second chance.