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Drug Court funded; program expanded to Jefferson County

Grant funds will be used to hire drug court coordinator
Drug Court will be extended to Jefferson County and three positions will be added to the program due to a grant received by Lutheran Community Services Northwest, the mental health, drug and alcohol service provider to the county.
   "I'm so thrilled," said Karen Kramer, drug program manager at Lutheran Community Services. "We have kept the Drug Court going on a shoestring and it's really nice to get the Drug Court funded again."
   The grant is for $251,427 and funds will go toward hiring one full-time drug court coordinator, who will divide their time equally between Crook and Jefferson counties, and a total of two additional full-time drug and alcohol councilors will be added to Lutheran Community Services and mental health facility Best Care in Madras.
   The new positions will fill needs in the two aspects of Drug Court. The coordinator represents the legal end, reporting to the Drug Court Team. The councilors will fill a need on the treatment side, said Kramer.
   Currently, Kramer is functioning as both a Drug Court coordinator and a councilor.
   "[The new system] will give a more well-rounded approach to working with clients," she said.
   The new system should also make the process of getting a person into treatment faster.
   "By hiring a Drug Court coordinator, 95 percent of participants will be able to have their orientation the same day they enter the program," added Amy Bonkosky, trial court administrator for the 22nd Judicial District.
   The Drug Court, where an intense system of accountability and incentive is used to keep offenders on track and committed to change, existed previously in Jefferson County beginning in 1999 and ending in 2001 due to lack of funding.
   Drug Court has existed in Crook County since 1997 under Circuit Judge Gary S. Thompson.
   The key objectives of the program are crime reduction, increased sobriety and drug- free parenting and drug-free babies.
   Drug Court has proven to be a cost effective treatment the county. The 22nd Judicial District has only a six percent recidivism rate. A conservative estimate of savings due to successful Drug Court participants was $305,055 yearly.
   The Drug Court team is made up of representatives from the district attorney and sheriff's offices, and the public defender. The team and the mental health councilors link clients to wraparound services such as adult literacy, financial planning, housing resources, domestic violence services, childcare, and employment.
   "When people enter Drug Court they sign an agreement to remain drug and alcohol free," Bonkosky said. "Their abstinence is closely monitored. It's a much more intensive program than traditional probation- and it's voluntary."
   The one-year expansion grant will facilitate a total of 30 participants. An additional five participants will be added to the current 10 in Crook County for a total of 15. It will add 15 participants to the program in Jefferson County.
   After this grant expires in one year, coordinators are hopeful funding will continue through the approval of the Oregon Legislature to add the coordinator position to the Circuit Court budget.
   "It's such an amazing and successful program," Kramer said. "There is life after alcohol and drug use. The folks who come through Drug Court are the proof."
   The next Drug Court will be held in Judge Thompson's courtroom July 17 at 11:30 a.m. at Crook County Circuit Court. It is open to the public.