Missouri lawmakers vote to strengthen the state's drug court programs

Published: Sep. 24, 2018 at 9:38 PM CDT
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Missouri lawmakers have voted to strengthen the state's drug court programs, allowing more people struggling with addiction access to specialized treatment.

"Prison three times. I went back on the same case. It was consistently possession of methamphetamine," Drug Court graduate Kelly Glover said.

Glover is a drug court graduate. Five years ago, she stood before Judge Alan Blankenship and drug court staff.

"I didn't know how to heal my past, I didn't know how to dig out the past and replace it with new," Glover said.

That's where the program came in. Glover is now clean and sober, thanks to the help of drug court.

"We focus on people who we can safely supervise in the community and provide them effective treatment," Associate Circuit Judge Alan Blankenship said.

Throughout the program, participants go to counseling, attend recovery groups, and are held accountable by not only the judge, but also people like Rob Watson, a probation and parole officer.

"That's what we try to teach them is a better way to deal with life on life's terms instead of the way they have been doing it," Watson said.

In Stone County, less than 20 percent of drug court graduates are arrested on new offenses within five years of graduating. It's proven success that, the judge says, the change in statue will help grow statewide.

"It will help us strengthen drug courts around the state of Missouri. It does a variety of things. First off, it allows circuits to establish actual treatment court divisions to house, administratively, the different versions of drug court, or treatment court. Second, it provides for the drug treatment court coordinating commission to establish best practice standards, which courts around the state will be expected to adhere to, to make them all better. Also, it will allow better access to treatment courts by allowing courts to transfer venue of cases for the purpose of doing treatment court. So, persons who may be arrested in counties that don't have a drug court, their case can be transferred to a county that does have drug court to allow them to have access to the programs. Also, it has provisions to allow people more time on probation that they would need to successfully complete a treatment court program. So, all of that will increase access to drug court programs," Blankenship said.

It's something that he says helps combat the drug epidemic and produce productive community members.

"If we send them to prison, it costs more money and they come back and they're our neighbors except they haven't been treated for their substance use dependence," Blankenship said.

Other graduates like Robert Kail say strengthening the program statewide will offer that hope to more people.

"It's important for people who are entangled with it now, to know, there's help and there's hope. You don't see that, I'll tell you right now, you don't see that when you're there," Kail said.

Stone County is one of nine model drug court programs in the country.

The governor is expected to sign that bill any day now.

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