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Funding Snub Won't Close Drug Court

POLK COUNTY -- Last month, 13 Oregon counties were awarded a total of $2.5 million from federal and state funding to create drug courts or enhance existing drug courts. Polk County was not one of them

POLK COUNTY -- Last month, 13 Oregon counties were awarded a total of $2.5 million from federal and state funding to create drug courts or enhance existing drug courts. Polk County was not one of them.

Another $3 million from the same funding sources was set aside for mothers and children affected by drug use. None of that appears headed for Polk County either.

Polk County Circuit Court Judge William Horner is taking it in stride. He applied for part of that money last year, asking for $450,000 to help cover the cost of Polk County's drug court and to treat uninsured addicts in the county.

Although his request was denied, he says the court will skate along as it has in the past year. He still firmly believes in what the drug court is doing.

And luckily, there haven't been too many uninsured addicts.

"Struggling as we have been for 51 weeks ... it is the American way to go forward in spite of adversity," Judge Horner said.

The idea behind a drug court is to reduce recidivism by treating the addiction. Accused offenders who elect to enter the program are enrolled in treatment, are assigned a probation officer and a social worker, and are required to meet with the judge at least once a week.

The offender avoids jail, and society rehabiliates a user -- if it all works right.

Drug courts have been around since 1989. Currently 1,183 such courts are operating in the United States, including 17 in Oregon.

According to a 2003 report by the National Institute of Justice, of 17,000 graduates from a drug court program nationwide, only 2,800 (16.4 percent) were rearrested and charged with a felony.

In a study conducted in Chester County, Penn., only a 5.4 percent of drug court graduates were rearrested, compared to a 21-percent rearrest rate for a control group.

"The biggest selling point is the number of drug-free babies that are born during this process. Drug use is a tragic problem for the poor children and a costly one for everybody -- both emotionally and financially," Horner has said.

Polk County plans to continue applying for grants, Horner said.

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