Drug Court coming to Harvey County

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Harvey County is starting a "Drug Court," an alternative court system designed to reduce the number of repeat offenses by those dealing with drug addiction.

Harvey County is about to launch a "Drug Court," the culmination of collaborative efforts including the work of the Harvey County Health Department. 

"This is not something where we will be light on crime," said Jason Lane, Harvey County prosecutor.  "You have someone that is already on probation and are failing. They will get more requirements. They will not only coming tot he court when there is a problem. They will be coming back every other week."

The effort will be initially be funded through a federal grant — a joint effort that includes Harvey, Reno and Barton counties. Reno County holds the grant, Harvey and Barton would be subcontracted under the grant.

According to county prosecutor Jason Lane, about 10 different agencies collaborated to create the drug court program for Harvey County. 

"Under Kansas Supreme Court rules we are allowed to have specialty courts that are more thereputic or problem solving in nature," Lane said. "They are a little bit different than your standard court case. They allow for special rules and special interventions." 

The first drug court session is scheduled for October, and like other court proceedings are open to the public. 

Drug Court is not funded by the court system or the Kansas Department of Corrections. The program relies on grant dollars, and employs different tactics for those within the drug court system.

Cost for engagement is about $8,000 per participant — costs include incentives, fuel reimbursement and housing allowances. 

"What we know is that addiction has cost society an astounding amount of money and resources," Lane said. "We know that in our criminal cases we see addiction creating more and more criminal offenses."

"In drug court we use a multi-disciplinary team, we bring in ta program manager, the probation officers, law enforcement becomes involved. And we have treatment providers who al meet up," Land said. "We will talk about what has been happening and how to keep people on track."

In Harvey county, more than 50 percent of court cases have a drug charge as the top criminal charge. It is estimated that 80 percent of crimes are drug related. 

Reno County has a drug court system in place, groundwork for the Reno County system started in 2010 by observing drug courts in Emporia, Junction City and Wichita. Reno County Judge Joseph McCarville presided over the first Reno County session in March 2011.

Judge Marilyn Wilder will preside over the first session of Drug Court in Harvey County next month. 

"We expect to see a lot of people in this program will not only have a drug use program but also mental health issues," Wilder said. "... Folks with mental health issues are overrepresented in the legal system. Drug Court is a way to address that."

The Reno County Drug Court serves felony drug offenders who are at high-risk for committing continued crimes  due to drug dependency. According to the Reno County Drug Free Alliance  about 80% of the Reno County  jail population has an addiction issue.

The proposed drug court for Harvey County will be for those who are convicted of a crime. 

"This is for people who have been through regular programs that have not been successful," Lane said. 

Registered sex offenders, convicted drug distributors and violent criminals will not be eligible for the program. 

Drug courts are a collaborative effort between community social service agencies, recovery community support, and the criminal justice system to rehabilitate the habitual offender.

"We have been warned to expect relapse, that is part of recovery. We will not have people sail through this," Wilder said. "But they will be in front of us every other week. ... Most of these folks do not have anyone in their lives that is encouraging them. That will be for the peer mentors."

Each drug court participant will have two mentors. 

According to the Reno County Drug Free Alliance, since 2011, 81% of Reno County Drug Court graduates have not been rearrested. And of those that don’t complete drug court successfully, 51% have not been rearrested.  

"When you invest a dollar in a drug court program, you really get a society cost come back at $2 to $3," Lane said. "It almost doubles or even triples what we put into the program." 

Eligible drug-addicted persons may be sent to Drug Court in lieu of traditional courts. Drug Courts keep individuals in treatment while supervising them. For a minimum term of one year, participants are:

• provided with intensive treatment and other services they require to get and stay clean and sober;

• held accountable by the Drug Court judge for meeting their obligations to the court, society, themselves and their families;

• regularly and randomly tested for drug use;

• required to appear in court frequently so that the judge may review their progress; and

• rewarded for doing well or sanctioned when they do not live up to their obligations.