More Funding for Drug Courts Could Help Franklin County, Officials Say - The Missourian: Local News

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More Funding for Drug Courts Could Help Franklin County, Officials Say

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Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014 4:00 pm

Franklin County, which has struggled with a methamphetamine problem, would benefit from additional funding to the state drug court program, said State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific.

Curtman says he has located $7 million in unobligated state funds to help offenders facing drug and alcohol problems. He is working on getting the funding added to the state budget bill.

“It’s really going to benefit Franklin County and our area,” Curtman said.

The goal of the drug court program is to treat the underlying substance abuse problem to reduce the chance of a person committing another crime in the future.

Drug courts reduce recidivism and have been very successful in Franklin County, Curtman said. Moreover, Curtman said drug courts save money by keeping defendants out of the costly prison system.

On average, there are a little more than 50 people in the Franklin County drug and DWI courts at any time, said Beth Billington.

She is the drug court administrator for the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Franklin, Gasconade and Osage counties.

She said more people could be served by the Franklin County drug and DWI court program if there was extra funding.

This year, the Franklin County drug court received $175,000 in state funds, and the DWI court got $30,000. In addition, the court also gets money from the participants who pay between $50 to $130 a month for the services.

Missouri budget documents state that it costs an estimated $22,853 to incarcerate an inmate each year while it costs $6,190 per year to put a person through the treatment court system.

The state’s treatment court system includes adult and juvenile drug court, mental health treatment court, family treatment court, DWI court and veteran treatment court.

The Missouri Judiciary has asked the Legislature to provide $7 million in additional funding for the treatment court system, which would more than double the current budget of $6.9 million.

The judiciary is asking for the extra $7 million to bring more people into the program, said Rick Morrisey, with the Office of State Courts Administrator

Currently, the Missouri treatment court system serves about 3,500 people at any given time across the state, Morrisey said. The extra funding could increase the amount of people served by 1,000 to 2,000, he said.

More money may help expand mental health services, Billington noted. It might also help with the costs of supervision since the court hires off-duty law officers to check up on program participants.

Medications to treat addicts are also very costly, she noted. Locally, there has been a shift away from methamphetamine to heroin and prescription drug abuse, Billington said, adding that local youth are falling prey to addiction.

The Franklin County drug court program was established in 1999, and it has a graduation rate of a little more than 50 percent. That is about the nationwide average, Billington said.

The treatment court system attempts to look at the “whole” person by helping them with life skills such as getting a GED, managing money and handling anger.

A team of professionals help the participants get through the drug and DWI court programs. The team includes a judge, two counselors, two probation officers, a narcotics officer, defense attorney, and Foundations for Franklin County, which can help with housing and child care.

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