Archived Story

County to get drug treatment court

Published 10:28am Thursday, November 5, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Berrien County Commissioners are expected today to officially accept grant funds awarded to the county in September for the development of a countywide drug treatment court.

The grant is in the amount of $342,800 to be distributed over three years and will aid in facilitating a new program that will handle certain types of drug offenders differently than in standard drug court.
“It is not specific to treatment,” said grant coordinator Jenny Grimm of the standard drug courts.
A drug treatment court, she said, “is going to be a little bit more intensive when it comes to judicial supervision.”

For offenders appearing before such a court, what will be found is a more interactive process and a program expected to last around 15 months.

During that time offenders might be required to take part in substance abuse treatment courses or programs, meet with mental health professionals if needed, face tougher sanctions if they break the rules or find incentives if they excel in the program.

The bottom line, Grimm said, is that offenders will “receive the treatment that they need.

“It will be a specific court,” she continued.

Offenders coming in would essentially develop relationships with judges and various officers of the court and even law enforcement in an effort to ensure their success in the program.

“You’re handling them differently,” Grimm said of offenders. “You’re going to be treating a user differently than a dealer.”

Those types of offenders, Grimm said, are who would find themselves eligible for the drug treatment court program.

The funds will go toward training and possible salary – should additional personnel be needed – as well as the costs of using outside specific providers that might be needed for services that would be specific to the offender, such as counseling or medical services.

The program would not start, Grimm estimated, until 2010.

And there is plenty of preparation that still needs to be done.

“When you’re asking people to come back in and talk to judges, it becomes very time consuming,” Grimm said.

Offenders coming into the program will begin and end their experience before the drug treatment court, part of their sentencing “will be to participate in this program.”

Grimm estimated 40 offenders on average appear before the current drug court who would be eligible for the program.

Non-violent offenders would take part in the program, Grimm said.

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