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Front Page » July 10, 2014 » Carbon County News » Drug court participants use think tank to help others get...
Published 40 days ago

Drug court participants use think tank to help others get into the program


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By C.J. McMANUS
Sun Advocate associate editor

For those in the grip of addiction, taking those brave first steps toward treatment are often the most difficult part of recovery. The decision to attempt a life without their substance of choice can be more frightening and painful than suicide. Sometimes however that choice is taken away as the criminal justice system steps in and pushes a weary and broken creature toward salvation.

In Carbon County, the first steps toward a life changing recovery require a minimum payment of $175 and for an addict in the grip of decades worth of addiction, the assessment may as well cost $1,000.

"Getting started is impossibly difficult without a little help or a wealthy family," said Jennifer Marakis, who has started a fund to help addicts pay for their assessment. "If a drug addict manages to get $175 together, it's not going to Four Corners, it going to their drug dealer."

As she worked her way through the felony drug court program, Marakis saw this as a major issue for those trying to get clean in the community before they are forced to by the criminal justice system.

To help them, she began setting up a fund which would collect money directly and for one purpose, to help those who need it to pay for their assessment. Because of the way we are doing things within the court I was able to implement this fund and get it working within a matter of weeks.

The fund Marakis has set up is called the Community Development Corporation. Price City has agreed to come on board as the project's fiscal agent and also as a knowledge center for any financial or tax problems that may arise.

The money is allocated by a panel who basically just ensure that the person does indeed need the money to get started with the Four Corners and Drug Court Program. While this fund is far from the first service project created by the court it is one of the most popular and well put together, reported those involved with the organization.

According to Carbon County Felony Drug Court Tracker Wally Hendricks, the court's members and officials have created a think tank which meets regularly to work on issues that can be fixed now and be fixed by them.

"That evaluation is the key to your recovery," said Marakis. "Of course you have to be willing to make some major changes and go through the hell of coming off some very addictive substances. But you can't get the help you need to make it without that assessment."

Once the assessment is completed however, a whole myriad of treatment options open up. Four corners officials will help the client become involved with programs like Vocational Rehabilitation and from their they can get government subsidized job training. They are shown how to obtain food on their own, they are shown how to sign up for subsidized housing. None of these things are possible, at four corners until an assessment has been completed and again that takes money.

At Four Corner's Community Behavioral Health, an intake assessment consists of a mental health evaluation using several schools of thought and a thorough substance abuse screening. From there, Four Corner's Substance Abuse Clinical Director Kara Cunningham diagnoses each patient and then staff's their case with a team of professionals to decide on and develop a unique treatment plan.

"We work very closely with the drug court program and it has made such a difference in the way we provide treatment here," said Cunningham.

Karl Kraync, a private pay Licensed Professional Counselor with 30 plus years of experience in the mental health and vocational rehabilitation field, also conducts mental health assessments. While his cost mirrors that of Four Corners, he sees far less clients for that reason.

"The difference in my office is that I don't use an computerized testing, so it takes a bit longer here," said Kraync. "I try to spend about three hours with the person conducting a full mental health and substance abuse profile."

Once completed, Kraync provided his patient or the Drug Court or both with a copy of his findings. The then researches their particular cocktail of problems, takes a look at how they might interact and develops a plan of action.

According to Kraync, about 70 percent of the clients he assesses show co-morbidity issues, meaning that they have both substance abuse and mental health problems. To compound the matters facing the Castle Country, substance abuse counselors across the gambit of treatment agree that poly-substance abuse is being seen in numbers never seen before.

What this all means is that a typical patient may show signs of bipolar disorder, early onset schizophrenia and be using methamphetamine and heroin all at the same time.

Right now, there are 70 area citizens participating in the felony drug court program. That means that they are drug tested at least twice weekly and can also be randomly tested by their tracker at anytime. A dirty test, or test which shows the participant has been using drugs results in immediate sanctions, usually jail time.

As a caveat to that, those in the Carbon County Jail are fed only twice a day and are locked in a 8 foot by 12 foot cell for 18 hours a day. There are many reasons that jail officials have given for changing their program, one of them is to discourage offenders from coming back. It's not working.

For Hendricks and Marakis something else has to and that something has to begin on the outside.

"Humans have this insatiable need for a magic wand,"said Hendricks laughing a little. "And there just isn't one. This program takes work and dedication."

While the Drug Court program is far from perfect and has many outspoken opponents, it is demonstrating unmatched success.

The court's best estimations show that just over 70 percent of graduates have not re-offended or put their children in danger a full year after leaving the program.

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