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Drug Court coming soon to Washington County

Washington County is in the process of establishing a Recovery Drug Court that will offer offenders a new option for rehabilitation.
According to Coordinator Ann Snodgrass, the court will make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.
“We know that substance abuse alters the brain, yet we’re asking them to do this on their own,” she said. “They need help in determining their triggers and finding better ways to react.”
The Drug Court Treatment Act of 2003 was approved by the General Assembly in an effort to reduce the use of jail and prison beds and other correctional services by non-violent, chemically dependent offenders by diverting them into rehabilitative programs.
This program is funded with state appropriations and drug court fees. 
Drug courts incorporate intensive judicial supervision, treatment services, sanctions and incentives to address the needs of addicted non-violent offenders.
Each drug court has a team that is composed of the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, Drug Court coordinator, probation officer, treatment providers and other program staff who all work together to ensure defendants have the support of the justice system and access to treatment services that will address their substance abuse problems and needs.
Through a partnership among criminal justice agencies and community mental health agencies, leaders believe the incidences of drug use, drug addiction and crimes resulting from both, will decrease.
Washington County’s Recovery Drug Court will be funded through a $70,000 recurring grant to Frontier Health.
Participants in the treatment program will be restricted to non-violent offenders who are substance abusing and/or chemically dependent and willing to participate.
Snodgrass was hired by Frontier Health in July to lead the creation of the Drug Court, and an advisory group began meeting weekly in September.
“We are making good progress,” she said, pointing out that group has established a mission, goals and objectives, and is now determining the structure of the four-phase treatment program.
The program is designed to be flexible and will be modified to be the most beneficial for each participant. “We want their buy-in so we will do everything we can to be the most helpful,” she said.
According to Snodgrass, one of the key components of a Recovery Drug Court is to put the person in treatment as soon as possible.
In each situation, she will conduct an assessment to determine the offender’s motivation to participate.
“At some point, people seem to realize they are in a revolving door, in and out of jail,” she said.
The average period of time a person will take part in the program is 12-18 months.
Sessions Court Judge Don Arnold will be the presiding judge and will meet weekly with participants to review their progress.
“We have to remember the differences from a Mental Health Court because we will be dealing with addictions, and there will be relapses,” he said.
Snodgrass said surveys show the judge’s involvement has a significant effect on success rates, though relapse is part of the recovery process.
“What I’m envisioning is even after completion, there will be a 60 to 90 day period where the participants will continue to be monitored,” she said.
Washington County’s program resources should be lined up to begin taking the first participants as soon as mid-November.
“Let’s hit this thing head-on and do some good,” Arnold said. “I don’t want to be spinning our wheels.”
Snodgrass is hoping to have 12 participants by the end of the year, though she has no idea what the full capacity of the program will be.
“Ultimately, in a year we will have the answers on how many the program will be able to handle effectively,” she said.