Input at hearing favors drug court
|Mike Milovich, Carbon commissioner|
Last Wednesday, local mental health and family services officials backed up the claims of a drug court's substance abuse abatement success with the testimony of people who have benefited from the volunteer system currently operating on a small scale in the county.
"I have been clean for 19 months," explained one family court participant at the public hearing scheduled by the county commission. "The system saved my family. DCFS (Utah Division of Child and Family Services) walked in and took my kids. When I saw that, I realized I would not get my kids back unless I worked hard. I am still in the system, but I now have my kids back. The program changed my life."
Another individual involved in the local program admitted to being scared about going to the family court. The family court and program are being operated by members of the mental health, human services and judicial system in the area on a volunteer basis.
"I thought they would be mean to me," stated the individual attending the public hearing. "But I found they were compassionate and just wanted to help me get off drugs. "
Conducted at the end of the regular county commission meeting last , the information introduced at the public hearing confirmed the proliferation of drugs in the county, particularly methamphetamine.
According to the officials, there is one group the drug seems to hook the most - young single mothers in their 20s.
"I remember when we used to get a female prisoner in our jail and it was a big deal, very unusual," pointed out Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova at the meeting.
"Now, the female populations in the facility has doubled - even tripled. Meth is the most addictive drug I've seen in all my years in law enforcement and it seems to have hit the female population the hardest," continued the county sheriff.
Most of the inmates housed at the county jail for drug offenses are serving commitments ordered by regular courts.
The standard criminal justice system can move rather slowly and accused offenders may not come to trial for six months after being busted.
A drug court operates differently.
Accused offenders agree to make weekly appearances before the judge with trackers and professional counselors, according to the officials.
If the individuals do not test drug-free, the program participants will go directly to jail for a couple of days.
Being locked up immediately has an effect on behavior and the constant supervision helps keep the individuals clean.
If the individuals participating in the program comply with drug court directives, the criminal charges be dropped after 12 months.
"Substance abuse and domestic violence are the cause of 90 percent of the children who are removed from homes in the area," stated Connie Mower, the guardian ad litem for the courts in the 7th District.
"Meth deteriorates parents judgment and care very quickly. That standing before judges each week in a drug court can pull them back up if they fall," added Mower.
To date, Carbon County has lacked the necessary funding to implement a full-fledged local drug court program.
Emery County received a drug court grant a few years ago and the program is working quite well, according to the officials.
The work completed by the group that established the family court has very likely put the county in line to receive the related funding in the event the revenues become available.
But Carbon commissioners may decide not to wait until funding for a local drug court program can be obtained.
"We need to take this problem on," stressed Commissioner Mike Milovich at the meeting last Wednesday. "We have pledged to find the scope of this problem, how to solve it and what solutions are needed. It appears, from what we have heard the last few weeks, we have one of the biggest drug problems in the state."
Suggestions had been made at previous commission meetings advising the lawmakers that county government may have to fund the drug court in order to get the program started in the Carbon County area.
Estimates from the entities presently running the family court estimate that the cost could amount to about $275,000 per year.
"Whatever the budget is, or would be, is probably only one-twentieth of what our community loses because of this problem," stated Cam Williams, an emergency room physician at Castleview Hospital and a doctor who works with drug problems at the jcounty ail. "Just think about it. Court time, accidents that drugs cause, the law enforcement costs, jail time and the costs to our community, it goes on and on."
"I have some pretty good feedback from associates who say they got clean at the jail, but I would rather we had a drug court so they can get clean and stay with their families rather than be locked up," noted the local physician.
However, the doctor pointed out that funding can only do so much.
"This can't just be done by funding alone, it has to be a community effort," explained Williams. "We need to look to churches, families and friends for help on this problem."
At the conclusion of the meeting, Carbon lawmakers decided to take the matter under advisement to study the concerns and possible solutions to remedy the situation.