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Front Page » February 3, 2005 » Local News » County earmarks COPs funds to launch drug court program
Published 3,494 days ago

County earmarks COPs funds to launch drug court program


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By LYNNDA JOHNSON
Sun Advocate editor

Carbon commissioners have earmarked the county's latest federal community oriented policing revenues to fund the implementation of a local adult drug court program.

Professional agencies dealing with youth and adults in the community initially identified the need to develop a drug court program to address the social and criminal problems associated with substance abuse in Carbon County, pointed out 7th Judicial District trial court executive Bill Engle during an interview last Thursday.

The concerns linked to excessive alcohol and drug usage include dependency, child abuse or neglect and criminal activity spurred by the desperation to support addictions.

Generally, counties purchase law enforcement equipment or cover officer training costs with federal COPS revenues, explained Engle.

But responding to local substance abuse concerns, Carbon County commissioners the sheriff's office opted to creatively channel the federal monies toward launching the adult drug court program.

The COPs revenues became available on Jan. 1.

After the commissioners allocated the seed money to subsidize the program's creation, officials formed a steering committee comprised of representatives from the sheriff's department, county attorney's office, adult probation and parole, Four Corners, the district courts and department of human services.

The members of the multi-agency panel have shouldered the task of organizing the drug court, indicated Engle.

Eight individuals selected to occupy positions with the program will undergo specialized training designed to familiarize staff, agencies and judges with program.

The county attorney's office, defense counsel and adult probation agents will refer potential candidates to a screening committee for eligibility review.

Consisting of representatives from the sheriff's department, the county attorney's office and Four Corners, the screening panel will weigh the circumstances cited in the drug-related complaints in question, evaluate the criminal backgrounds of the defendants and select qualified candidates to participate in the program.

To maximize the drug court's effectiveness, a limited number of accused criminal offenders will be accepted into the program, continued Engle.

Pre-qualified subjects will appear before the 7th District Court and execute plea in abeyance agreements in drug-related criminal complaints before the cases are transferred to the program.

Upon entering the drug court process, the candidates will receive packets outlining the stringent completion criteria.

The level system based program focuses on accountability, extensive supervision and individualized treatment.

"We have found that, if folks do not get the treatment they need, the problems perpetuate," indicated Engle.

Without appropriate intervention and individualized support, substance abuse and dependency remain unchecked, drug-related illicit activity escalates and criminal complaints continue to flood the criminal justice system.

The first phase is typically the most demanding level of the drug court process, noted Engle. The defendants must submit to extensive monitoring and appear before the court on a regular basis, frequently at one proceeding per week.

Judge Bruce K. Halliday will preside over the drug court cases, the 7th Judicial District will oversee the operation of the program and Robert Welch will track the progress of the participants.

The 7th District staff will assume the drug court's clerical duties and Four Corners will provide mental health treatment services for participants.

To graduate from drug court, referred accused offenders must comply with the terms specified in the plea in abeyance agreements, fulfill the requirements to progress from phase to phase and complete all levels of the program.

Imposing immediate consequences for failure to comply with the program's accountability, supervision and treatment guidelines plays a crucial role in the drug court process. Penalties may include serving jail sentences, repeating lower levels or restarting at the initial stage of the program.

Graduates successfully completing all levels of the drug court program may earn dismissal or reduction of the criminal charges specified in the plea in abeyance agreements, concluded Engle.



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