News Item
New federal grant will support launch of Wright County Drug Court

Posted: Monday, October 17, 2016

Wright County has been awarded a three-year federal grant to support the launch of its new drug court program, local justice system leaders announced today. 

The Wright County Adult Drug Court will be funded through a three-year, $349,883 implantation grant from the United States Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Wright County drug court program received final approval from the Minnesota Judicial Council in August, and is expected to hold its first session on November 3, 2016. The program’s goal is to reduce recidivism among offenders struggling with addiction, thereby improving public safety and reducing incarceration and re-arrest costs. In addition, drug courts serve to help offenders struggling with addiction reach sobriety, and reintegrate with their families, work, and community.

“Drug courts are a proven, innovative approach to reducing drug crime and helping offenders struggling with addiction become sober and productive community members,” said Tenth Judicial District Court Judge Michele A. Davis, who will preside over the Wright County Adult Drug Court alongside the Honorable Geoffrey W. Tenney. “This is an extremely positive development for our community, and we are pleased to have this federal support to help us get this program off the ground. We know we will be able to do lot of good over the next three years.”

Drug courts are specialized court programs that target non-violent criminal offenders who suffer from addiction to alcohol or other drugs. The programs give drug-addicted offenders the opportunity to avoid jail or even prison after demonstrating a lengthy period of sobriety, and the ability to stay crime-free and productive.

To support individuals facing addiction, the Wright County Adult Drug Court will bring together justice system and community organizations to deliver treatment for chemical and mental health, as well as other services that foster positive change in the participants’ behavior.  The program will also provide strict supervision of the offender, including frequent drug testing and regular mandatory check-in court appearances. The program will stress accountability for participants, and will utilize a range of immediate sanctions and incentives to foster behavior change. The program is designed to handle up to 25 offenders at any time, and completing the program will take between 14 and 24 months.

The Wright County Adult Drug Court will operate in five phases, which are structured to focus on progressive goals for the participant as treatment moves forward. Phase 1 is a period of stabilization and induction into treatment. Phase 1 emphasizes orientation to treatment, establishing a routine of attending treatment sessions, abiding by a home curfew, and attending court weekly. Phase 2 – clinical stabilization – emphasizes initiation of abstinence. Phase 3 is a pro-social habilitation phase and emphasizes development of pro-social healthy behaviors (e.g., obtaining employment, working toward a GED, or attending vocational or parenting classes). Phase 4 is an adaptive habilitation phase emphasizing lasting recovery and developing strong community connections. Phase 5 addresses continuing care, emphasizing relapse prevention and aftercare.

Plans to establish a drug court in Wright County originated with the county’s district court judges, who saw the positive impact drug courts were having in other communities across the state. Beginning in January, Wright County judges began developing support for a local drug court within the county, eventually developing a core team that included the Wright County Attorney’s Office, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the local public defender’s office, a probation agent from Wright County Court Services, Wright County Health and Human Services, and a chemical dependency counselor from Central Minnesota Mental Health Center. Members of this team participated in federal drug court training in Minnesota last March.

Treatment Courts: A Proven Model

Over the past several years, Minnesota has experienced a significant expansion of drug court, veterans court, and other treatment court programs across the state. Today, Minnesota has 57 treatment courts either currently operating or in the final implementation phase, including 11 multi-county programs.

Since 2012, Minnesota has conducted three statewide evaluations of treatment court programs. These evaluations, as well as many other national studies, have shown the real, positive impact of treatment courts: reduced recidivism among participants, long-term cost savings in the criminal justice system, and better outcomes for offenders struggling with addiction, including higher rates of employment, stable housing, and educational attainment.

A summary of these evaluations, with links to complete reports, is available here.