On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center is a podcast series that tells the stories of people involved in problem-solving courts, the narratives that emerge from a human-centered approach to crime. Listen and learn how problem-serving courts foster wellness and recovery in the confines of the justice system.
Podcast Series: Color in the Court: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Treatment Courts
In this episode of On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center, we hear from a treatment court in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on their initiative to produce greater racial and ethnic equality in their court and community.
0:02 Nicolas Bilz: Welcome to On The Docket, with the National Drug Court Resource Center. I’m your host, Nick Bilz. The National Drug Court Resource Center, or NDCRC, is housed in the Justice Programs Office, or JPO, a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University. JPO provides research, technical assistance, training, program evaluation and capacity building services to jurisdictions, organizations and government agencies throughout the US and internationally. The National Drug Court Resource Center is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the US Department of Justice’s Drug Court Initiative. NDCRC is the go-to place for treatment court practitioners to access a wide variety of resources to make their programs as effective as possible. The ideas and thoughts expressed in this podcast do not directly reflect those of JPO, American University, the Bureau of Justice Assistance or the Department of Justice.
0:52 NB: In our previous episode of Color In The Court: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Disparities In Treatment Courts, we discussed solutions to address racial and ethnic disparities in treatment courts. To listen to that episode, check out our website at www.ndcrc.org. In 2018, staff from the National Drug Court Resource Center, attended the National Association of Court Management’s annual conference. At the conference, staff heard a session titled Exploring Implicit Bias: Bringing Racial Justice To The Court System Through Institutional Organizing. After learning about all the great work Mecklenburg County was doing, NDCRC staff wanted to learn more about their racial and ethnic equity initiatives and was interested in inviting a treatment court in their jurisdiction to complete the RED Program Assessment Tool. So now I’m joined by Mecklenburg County Equity and Inclusion Specialist Joseph Johnson and Janeanne Gonzalez, the Criminal Justice Services Program manager. Thank you so much for being here and we’ll jump right into it. The recovery court was chosen as one of the pilot sites to test out the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Program Assessment Tool, so what were your experiences in using the tool and how has its use impacted the court system?
1:57 Janeanne Gonzalez: Well, this is Janeanne and what I can tell you is that the tool was helpful in bringing to light information that is often overlooked. You get into operating a program, and doing the same thing over and over again, thinking that you’re paying attention to the small details, but they’re not always there, and so the RED Assessment Tool was helpful in bringing some of that to light for us.
2:24 Joseph Johnson: To continue what Janeanne raised, one of the things that takes place in the field of equity, specifically when we talk about disparate outcomes, are sets of neutral policies, that on the surface it seems like it’s fair, but unless a racial equity lens is applied towards these policies and practices, they might be exacerbating racial and ethnic disparity outcomes, or they very well may be continuing a systemic problem as it relates to disparity in racial ethnic.
2:56 NB: And so, jumping off of that, what you were just talking about, what recommendations from using the RED tool, which recommendations did you find most valuable in the Mecklenburg Criminal Justice System Programs?
3:06 JG: I think there were two types of recommendations. There’s the low hanging fruit and things that are easy, quick, team buy in that can be implemented and those were the issues that were related to documenting our intentionality and part of our paperwork, as part of our forms, as part of our handbooks, and then there’s others that really talked about more of a systemic change and I think that the wonderful relationship that Mecklenburg County has by having the equity and inclusion work that Joseph’s group is doing on behalf of our department that’s part of the larger Mecklenburg County effort. So, we’re able to say it’s not just something that treatment courts are doing, it’s not just this area, it is much broader and we have the opportunity to be involved in that on the front end. The recommendations with regard to how are we charging fees for treatment and probation, and how do we make any of those changes because those do impact in a negative way those that are lower socioeconomic status within our community who tend to be those that are in the criminal justice system. Then, if you add the racial issues on top of that, it’s obvious that we’re targeting most often in the criminal justice system the African-American men who are in the criminal justice system disproportionately to the rest of the population. That’s not always something that one small faction of the system can change, but they can start raising enough noise about it, being intentional in our work that it begins to impact those around you and you have that in the pebble in the pond effect in the ripple that is exciting for us to be able to see that there are so many other groups that are now paying attention to that, that it’s helping us sharpen and hone our skills and our intentionality around the topic.
5:09 NB: Joseph, can you talk about the commitment Mecklenburg County has made regarding ensuring racial and ethnic equity?
5:15 JJ: One of the things that I sincerely appreciate about my time with Mecklenburg County as a whole is that there is a commitment to racial equity and it’s synonymous with the same messaging that’s coming from the county manager’s office and also being articulated by every single director that we have within Mecklenburg County. Everybody’s on the same page as it relates to having a concentration around racial equity. It’s one so much so that going forward the Mecklenburg County office has recently announced every single department is also going to have what they refer to as a DEAT, a Department Equity Action Team. Every single department within Mecklenburg County will have a group of people in each department that have a commitment towards racial equity and at the direction of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, they will be creating a department equity action plan. Data driven practice and policy driven analyzing outcomes, disparate outcomes, and then putting forth solutions to remedy them. Criminal Justice Service has been at the forefront of our racial and ethnic disparity work, even prior to the direction of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, we had been doing racial equity work within our department and we also have a partnership with the McArthur Foundation, specifically their Safety and Justice Challenge, and how the McArthur Foundation is working as a strategy dedicated specifically to racial and ethnic disparities. We have the best of the best, really, we’re concentrated in three areas all focused on racial and ethnic disparities, our partnership with the county manager’s office, Office of Equity and Inclusion, the McArthur Foundation, again the work, the good faith efforts that we put forth in trying to measure and remedy our racial and ethnic disparities, I couldn’t be happier. American University Justice Programs Office, their Racial and Ethnic Disparity Tool is another tool that helps us remedy whatever disparities we have within our jurisdiction.
7:23 NB: So, for other courts, other treatment courts in other counties, that maybe aren’t quite as coordinated as yours, or maybe facing some other pressures or issues, what advice do you for those courts who want to address racial and ethnic disparity?
7:40 JJ: I would say, in my experience, the culture change, the commitment is half the battle. Getting to a point where you have everybody articulating the same message, everybody has the same goal and objective and mind, and that comes top down from county manager’s office to their staff, their assistant county managers, department directors, managers, supervisors, just being able to have that, that is 50% of the battle. The other half is one that requires actually taking the time, analyzing policies and practices, and doing so in a data-driven way but more so, I would say if there’s any type of commitment to the work, to reach out to jurisdictions that are similarly situated, that are currently doing the work, because Mecklenburg County is a very large jurisdiction, and we know some smaller jurisdictions that have an intention to racial and ethnic disparities, but they way in which they go about trying to remedy those disparities are going to be different to what we have because of their size. I would reach out to a network of people, because there very much is a network.
8:50 NB: And I’ll turn it over to you, Janeanne, what advice do you have for treatment courts who are interested in facing their own racial and ethnic disparity?
8:58 JG: The key factor for treatment court success has always been the fact that it’s judicially led, that they’re collaborative effort by a team of individuals representing a broad number of agencies and if you can get the leadership from your judge, the commitment from your judge, you can take a look, that’s where the RED Tool becomes so helpful, because it helps you take that initial look if you haven’t already done so. Then the judge leading the efforts on behalf of the team, sitting down and having the conversations that Joseph is pointing out is just invaluable to making any kind of progress, it just takes starting the conversation and if you’re not having the conversation, that’s where you need to start. And then if you’re ready to take the next step and begin to do an assessment, the program assessment, utilizing the RED Tool, then that’s the next step, then seeing where it goes with different agencies that are part of the treatment court and how agencies can make changes, and then as a whole, the treatment court itself, because the treatment courts are not really the court, they’re not the prosecutor, they’re not the defense attorney, they’re not probation, they’re not treatment, it’s such a team approach that it’s a unique opportunity to begin to look and see how can a group of people impact what’s going on in their own community. That’s a great fit with having the tool being used for treatment court aspect versus trying to tackle the entire criminal justice system, that’s too much. We’ll start where we know we can have an immediate impact and you begin to see the results right away, and that success then allows people the freedom to then explore further.
10:49 NB: So speaking of continuing onwards, ever onwards, with Mecklenburg seeming to be in alignment, what are the next steps in the process for your county, and we’ll start with you Janeanne?
10:59 JG: Well, one of the things that we did when we piloted the American University RED Tool, was we did it with one of our treatment courts, one of our recovery courts. We have six sperate recovery courts, so we planned to roll this out with the remaining five recovery courts, and to look each of those areas because they serve separate populations within the criminal justice system and begin to then provide a more unified voice and to what we’re moving towards, and what areas need to be addressed that may be used in one of those courts versus all six of them. Look at how we can then get the overall Criminal Justice Services department as well as the broader criminal justice community to assist in moving those areas forward. We are continually looking at reframing addiction, reframing mental health, how do we look at recovery, how do we look at and acknowledge that this is a brain disease, and what that entails without it being penalizing and punishing for those who have the disease, and making sure we’re using recovery orientated language. We don’t talk about some of the little things that can be made that help to have someone participating in a recovery court feel included instead of feeling shamed. That’s a big part of where we’re headed right now.
12:36 NB: So Joseph, what about for you? What do you see as the next steps forward? It sounds like you were talking a little bit about the leadership. What do you see as the next steps for you and your office moving forward?
12:49 JJ: Sure, so we have a number of things that we are looking to address. One we have will be referred to referred to as a RED work group, a racial and ethnicity disparity work group, that work group comprises of our leadership within the criminal justice system, law enforcement, the courts, the district attorney’s office, public defender’s office, along with having representation, like me as equity inclusion specialist, to look at data driven way in which we can reduce our disparities in a variety of areas. Additionally, we’re look at strategies currently and ways in which we can engage the community with respect to this work. I’m fortunate in that while this is a large task, we have the buy in and the partnerships that I mentioned, the RED work group serves at the direction of what we call the CJAG, the Criminal Justice Advisory Group, that comprises of leaders from all of our criminal justice institutions. They meet monthly and racial and ethnic disparities is a part of that conversation and the RED work group that I was just referencing is a subcommittee of the CJAG. Furthermore, I’m fortunate to be able to have a great manager of the research and planning unit, and I am one of two equity specialists. Mecklenburg County, since the time in which we piloted the JPO American University Tool, we have since then hired another equity and inclusion specialist and she’s knocking it out of the park, so I’m once again, I’m fortunate that I have help in this initiative and there is buy in. That’s our next step, to take the help and buy in that we have, and in good faith tackle these problems.
14:41 NB: Joseph Johnson and Janeanne Gonzalez, thank you so much for your time. I know that you are busy and we really appreciate you taking the time out of your work day to speak to not only me, but everyone who is interested in pursuing racial and ethnic parity moving forward through the criminal justice system, so thank you both and good luck in all of your future endeavors.
15:01 NB: To contact Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services regarding issues of equity and inclusion, email email@example.com. So, this concludes our series on racial and ethnic disparities in treatment courts. We hope that you found it informative and if you work within a treatment court, that it has been educational. The discussions contained within this series should have provided you with the skills and knowledge to locate and address some of the disparities that may exist in your treatment court. To learn more about the National Drug Court Resource Center, visit www.ndcrc.org. You can also visit the Justice Programs Office website at www.american.edu/spa/jpo.
In this episode of On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center, we learn about the Racial and Ethnic disparities (RED) Program Assessment Tool developed by the Justice Program Office at American University to capture information about treatment courts’ operations and procedures, with an emphasis on examining areas where racial and ethnic disparities may exist.
0:02 Nicolas Bilz: Welcome to On The Docket, with the National Drug Court Resource Center. I’m your host, Nick Bilz. The National Drug Court Resource Center, or NDCRC, is housed in the Justice Programs Office, or JPO, a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University. JPO provides research, technical assistance, training, program evaluation and capacity building services to jurisdictions, organizations and government agencies throughout the US and internationally. The National Drug Court Resource Center is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the US Department of Justice’s Drug Court Initiative. NDCRC is the go-to place for treatment court practitioners to access a wide variety of resources to make their programs as effective as possible. The ideas and thoughts expressed in this podcast do not directly reflect those of JPO, American University, the Bureau of Justice Assistance or the Department of Justice.
0:54 NB: In our previous episode of Color In The Court: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Disparities In Treatment Courts, we spoke with three professors about racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system, including treatment courts. To listen to that episode, check out our website www.ndcrc.org. Today’s episode will focus on how treatment courts can address racial and ethnic disparity in their treatment courts. We will hear from Zephi Francis, who is a researcher at American University’s Justice Programs Office, who will discuss the Racial And Ethnic Disparities Program Assessment Tool that his team has developed. We will also hear from Darryl Turpin about a program known as HEAT, or Habilitation Empowerment Accountability Therapy, which is a trauma informed group counseling intervention. First up though, Zephi, thank you so much for joining us today. The Justice Programs Office recently released the Racial and Ethnic Disparities, or RED, Program Assessment Tool. So tell us what is the purpose of the tool, what does it asses and how can people use it, and who should use it as well?
1:52 Zephi Francis: Hi Nick, thank you for inviting me to be part of this podcast series. I’m excited to talk about the work the Justice Programs Office at American University is doing around racial and ethnic disparities. We developed the RED Program Assessment Tool to help treatment courts determine if racial and ethnic disparities were present in their system and processes. To fulfil this mission, we created the Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) Program Assessment Tool, which is a secure and confidential web-based platform which has a series of close and open-ended questions to capture information about treatment court operations and procedures, with an emphasis on examining areas where racial and ethnic disparities may exist. There are three goals for the program assessment tool. To raise awareness about racial and ethnic disparities in treatment courts, to assist users identify racial and ethnic disparities in their system and processes, and to offer recommendations on alleviating racial and ethnic inequities in programs. The assessment has eight sections and some of the topics covered, court information, intake, assessments, demographics, team members, training and drugs, treatment and support services is in one section, and our last section includes evaluation and monitoring. The tool is usable for any treatment court that serves clients with an underlying substance use or mental health issue.
3:18 NB: Alright, excellent, there’s a lot in there. Talking a little bit, maybe going a little slower, through the difference facets of the RED Tool, you touched on the purpose of the tool. Do you have in mind maybe some indicators that a court should consider assessing themselves, is this something that people can always self-diagnose? Like “oh yes, we should use the RED Assessment Tool” or is this something that has to be prescribed, like someone else outside looks at a treatment court system or a criminal justice system and says “we think there might be some bias here.” How does that get started?
3:48 ZF: One thing I always like to tell courts is that this assessment is just like going to a doctor. For example, you go to your yearly check-up, and you may go to a doctor, and your doctor tells you that you’re perfectly healthy and the doctor doesn’t need to see you until a year later. Or you can go to a doctor and the doctor can tell you that you have high blood pressure, and the doctor wants you to start working out, or wants you to start taking medicine. So, even if your court doesn’t have any indication, we still think that your court would benefit from taking this tool, and I also will say, there are some courts who do have some indicators. So, for example, if a court is analyzing their data and they’re realizing that their participants who may be black or Hispanic and they aren’t graduating these programs at a high rate, they could look at their data and see that whites are completing the program, they may want to say this is a disparity here, how can we improve upon our graduation rates. I will also mention there are some courts who realized that their population in the court doesn’t reflect those who should be in the program. So, for example, in a jurisdiction, if there’s a high percentage of participants getting arrested for a drug issue, then you should see a good amount of people of color in the drug court if they are being arrested in the community for these issues. Looking at some of those indicators, such as who is getting into the program, such as eligibility, if you think that your program is underrepresented of racial and ethnic minorities, then we think that this would definitely be a tool that will help treatment courts.
5:44 NB: The tool is fairly new, but have any courts completed the assessment and what’s been their experience with the RED Assessment Tool?
5:52 ZF: Before releasing the tool to the wider treatment court field, we were able to pilot the tool with three treatment courts. Preeti Menon, who is the project director for NDCRC, and I traveled to Louisiana, Missouri and North Carolina. These courts completed the tool and these site visits were an opportunity for us to receive feedback on the tool. We wanted to ensure that this tool was user friendly for practitioners and applicable to their treatment court program. One of the suggestions we got from a site visit was to maybe provide definitions. On the tool, there was some terminology that some people weren’t too familiar with, or just wanted a better understanding, so we took that suggestion and now we have a glossary of terms, so we provide treatment courts with a glossary of terms so they’ll know exactly what we mean by certain words that we use throughout the assessment. Our overall goal was to make this user friendly and we wanted to make sure that this was an assessment that treatment court would want to use before we rolled it out. I would also mention that one of the sites noted that completing this tool gave them the space to have a much needed discussion around race and equity in their program. The tool was a starting point for the team to pinpoint some issues and to make adjustment.
7:19 NB: And so, for a treatment court that has decided they would like to do the assessment, what’s the best way for them to sign up and get those results?
7:28 ZF: To find the RED Program Assessment Tool online, you can visit redtool.org. If courts want to take the tool, they can click the “Please Contact Us To Register” link, a prompt will pop up and it will ask you to fill out your contact information. Within one to two business days, you will receive an email with your CourtID and password and you will be ready to log in. Definitely encourage the whole treatment court to be present as the team goes through the questions on the assessment. Once your team has completed the assessment, you will get results, so you will receive an overall score, and you will receive a score for each section, minus the demographics. These scores range from 0 to 100. Along with the scores, courts will also receive recommendations on how to improve their program and make it more racially and ethnically inclusive. Once you get your recommendations, the court will realize that these recommendations are tailored to the responses they gave on the assessment, so we recommend that treatment courts complete this assessment on a yearly basis after they’ve had a chance to implement some of the recommendations the tool suggested.
8:51 NB: But is there any catalyzing event that in their mind would be like “this event has happened” or “this result has happened”, the RED Assessment Tool should begin immediately, as soon as possible, for a particular treatment court?
9:06 ZF: Some treatment courts are starting to do focus groups with participants and figuring out what worked or what didn’t work in the treatment court, so that’s kind of part of their evaluation process. If courts have done an evaluation, and they realize that there are some racial and ethnic disparities that exist, I think that would definitely be a sign for them to start this process. For example, I think most treatment courts have an external evaluator to come in, so if your court has had an external evaluator come in and indicate that this court is experiencing racial and ethnic disparities, if you have that outcome data and you have that information from your evaluation, we think that this tool will definitely be worth completing.
10:00 NB: And if people want to speak to you about their particular drug court or treatment court, or talk about the RED assessment tool, is there any way they can get in touch with you, or any other resources that courts should be made aware of?
10:14 ZF: To reach the Justice Programs Office, listeners can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our website is redtool.org. We have a list of resources on their, so for example, one of our resources is the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Program Assessment Tool tutorial, and it’s a very short clip that will give you an overview of the tool, and some instructions on completing the tool. We also have a webinar that we conducted in partnership with the Center for Court Innovation and that goes into a lot of the research on racial and ethnic disparities. We also had a partner, John Gallagher, he wrote an issue brief on racial and ethnic disparities and it’s a very short document that goes over some of the research and also some of the various different strategies that courts can implement to address racial and ethnic disparities in their programs. You will find all those resources on our website. If they want to learn more about the National Drug Court Resource Center, they can visit us at NDCRC.org. We have a variety of resources that are available to the treatment court field.
11:32 NB: From everything you’ve described, it sounds like the only thing standing in the way of treatment courts is just the will to use those. Getting everyone together and agreeing that this is a priority.
11:44 ZF: Yeah, we believe that when treatment courts believe that it is a priority, and to tackle racial and ethnic disparities, they will make room and make the time to complete this tool, we have all the resource and if a court wants more clarification, they can still reach out to us. We are okay with doing conference calls with courts to answer any questions, or at least more detail, we definitely want this tool to be used and we definitely see it benefiting treatment courts.
12:18 NB: Zephi, thank you so much for coming by the podcast today and good luck with all your future endeavors trying to make this a reality.
12:26 ZF: Thank you for having me.
12:29 NB: Along with the Racial and Ethnic Disparity Program Assessment Tool, I want to highlight Habilitation Empowerment Accountability Therapy, or HEAT. HEAT is a holistic and afro-centric approach to address the root issues centering on childhood and intergenerational trauma on black man between the ages of 18 and 29 involved in the criminal justice system. We’re joined by Darryl Turpin, who is one of the co-creators of HEAT and a member of the RED Program Assessment Tool working committee, and he’s here to share why he created this program and the impact its had on participants. Mr Turpin, thank you so much for being here. For just a bit of background for our listeners, in a research article by Vito and Tewkesbury in 1998, the authors highlight the culturally competent treatment services offered to African-American participants in a Kentucky treatment court by a staff member. Coincidentally, you were that staff member, leading the efforts, so what motivated you to start offering culturally competent treatment which later evolved into the creation of HEAT?
13:22 Darryl Turpin: Back in those days, there were over representation of young African-Americans flooding the system. We saw young men of color just flooding the system. They were not necessarily amenable to treatment, they were not necessarily wanting to be there or had a good attitude about treatment and back in those days, the typical thing that treatment providers were doing was discharging and administratively discharging them because of lack of compliance, lack of attitude amenable to treatment, and honestly, judges that were working in drug court at that time, were putting pressure on treatment providers, like ourselves, and telling us basically that we had to figure out how to work with this population more effectively, that sending young black men to prison just because they were not necessarily wanting to be there was not an option. We were really forced, because of the way the drug court model operates, to really hone in on what cultural responsivity, what were going to be the tools of engagement to properly engage these men in an active way that would let them have better success and outcomes as it relates to their engagement in drug court. As a result, we began to develop models and interventions that would meet the needs of that population. It was really as a result of being forced to work with a population that normally would not land in treatment, we found ourselves having to work with that population and find tools that would properly engage them more effectively.
15:03 NB: Tell us a little bit about the creation of HEAT and how your work in the early time evolved into the creation of HEAT.
15:10 DT: All that wonderful work that we were doing back in the late 90s, we never documented, it was never manualized, it was never put into a format to actually replicate, we were basically just rolling up our sleeves and doing it. There was another gentleman that was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who we had heard about whose name was Guy Wheeler, and Guy Wheeler was running the first African-American male track for drug court in the country, at least that we had heard of, was doing some very effective work in engaging young black men by separating them in a different track and providing treatment services that met their needs. So, after meeting him and working with him over the years, we figured, hey, you know what works, I know what works, let’s write this down, let’s put this together, let’s manualize it, let’s make sure that it has all the best practices of what we know, what science knows, that works effectively with this population. Let’s ensure that we study how to effectively work with trauma, impacted populations, let’s make sure that we need to develop mental needs and more importantly, let’s make sure that it responds to the cultural needs in an effective way. We sort of fused all that together, all our experiences, all the information that we had about best practices, and we fused it together and we created HEAT, Habilitation Empowerment Accountability Therapy. It’s just been amazing how it has rolled out and how it has basically transformed many populations, and I’ll tell you what it has done as well is, those who are facilitators, whose who go through the facilitator training and actually learn how to deliver the model, they actually become transformed as well. For the first time they have the tools they need to effectively engage, they actually understand it from a culture perspective, and dealing with their own trauma themselves, racial trauma and how to overcome many of those issues themselves using their clinical expertise and engaging and addressing and transforming the populations that they’re delivering it to. It’s almost like to transform a population you have to be transformed yourself. That is actually happening, it’s rolling out in a way that’s very impactful. We’re very, very happy with the outcomes so far.
17:32 NB: There’s so much, especially in the healthcare field, of research literature on cultural competency as a way to reduce racial and ethnic disparity. Obviously, everything you’ve said so far, it’s a huge part of HEAT. Now, you’ve been implementing HEAT, or practices consistent with HEAT, since the late 90s. Research is currently being conducted on the impact of HEAT, but from your personal experiences, what’s the been the impact of HEAT on treatment court participants?
17:58 DT: Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in treatment courts over the last several is that drug courts have turned into white courts. I think that the target population, rather than moving towards a population that could benefit in an effective way, are moving in the direction to address the needs of those who are overly represented in the criminal justice system. We have basically removed that population out of many drug courts and just included populations that seem to fit more the treatment model of the services available. I think what HEAT does is to say that those who in many jurisdictions are overly represented, we now have the services that can meet your needs. With these young, African-American men, putting them in a treatment setting that was designed basically for white men, middle aged white men from the 1960s which many of these models are based on, they’re not going to fit, they’re not going to be able to adjust, they’re not going to be able to engage, and of course, successfully complete it. So what drug court has done is say “well, since you’re not going to be able to fit within that model that we have to deliver, we’re going to exclude you from the drug court process,” and unfortunately, what’s happened is drug court in many places across the country has turned into white court, where many jurisdictions once were serving populations that were being overly represented in the system now are serving people who are not necessarily reflective of disparate numbers that are represented. What we need to do is to say, hey, let’s look at our jails, let’s look at our probation population, how can we best serve them and to make sure that we have services tailored to meet their needs. Yeah, they’re not going to fit into your normal residential, outpatient addiction programs, because addiction in many of these guys is just a piece of puzzle. They’ve got other behaviors and other issues and racialized trauma that impacts them in a way that just putting them in a traditional treatment setting won’t work. I think drug court has now, when treatment had to step up their game in the 90s, I think it’s time for the courts to step up their games and say we’re really going to meet the needs of this community, we’re now going to have to include these populations in our courts and in our programs. Now, because of HEAT, we have the services to meet their needs.
20:41 NB: If, after hearing this, a listener wants to learn more about HEAT, how can they do so?
20:46 DT: They can reach me through email at email@example.com. I would like to let folks know that we have also have a model called HEAT For Youth, for African-American males aged 13-17 years old, and lastly, we’re very proud that we just rolled out a model, just finished our first pilot of HEAT For Women, which is actually called HER. It’s for African-American women, young African-American women in the criminal justice system which we need to pay attention, because that’s the fastest rising criminal justice population, are African-American women and we rolled out that model, we just finished our first pilot in Portland, Oregon. We’re very proud. Just wanted to give a shout out to those programs.
21:46 NB: Alright, Darryl Turpin, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to come talk to me and talk to our listeners. We appreciate everything you’re doing and good luck with your future, just casually saving the world, good luck with your future saving the world endeavors.
21:58 DT: I appreciate the time that I was allowed to speak and that you are paying attention to this. I’m honored to be able to speak on behalf of PinWheel Group and again, to serve in this capacity, to be able to ensure that we have responsive interventions to meet the needs of populations that are in need.
22:17 NB: So we’ve just learned about two methods in which treatment courts and communities can start to address racial and ethnic disparities. The Racial and Ethnic Disparities Program Assessment Tool helps treatment court teams pinpoint where disparities may exist in their system and offer recommendations to alleviate the disparities. HEAT specifically targets a population who routinely struggles to complete treatment court programs. There’s a strong movement within the treatment court field to provide a more inclusive and culturally competent environment so participants can be successful regardless of race and ethnicity. In our next episode, we talk to several members from Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services about their initiatives to create racial and ethnic equity. To learn more about the National Drug Court Resource Center, visit www.ndcrc.org. You can also visit the Justice Programs Office website at www.american.edu/spa/jpo.
In this episode of On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center, we take a look at the current state in the US justice system and the magnitude of the problem when it comes to racial and ethnic disparities and the root causes behind it. We explore Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) in Treatment Courts and emerging solutions to identify and mitigate disparities.
0:02 Nicolas Bills: Welcome to On The Docket, with the National Drug Court Resource Center. I’m your host, Nicolas Bills. The National Drug Court Resource Center, also known as NDCRC, is housed in the Justice Programs Office, a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University. JPO provides research, technical assistance, training, program evaluation and capacity building services to jurisdictions, organizations and government agencies throughout the United States and internationally. The National Drug Court Resource Center is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the US Department of Justice’s Drug Court Initiative. NDCRC is the go-to place for treatment court practitioners to access a wide variety of resources to make their programs as effective as possible. The ideas and thoughts expressed in this podcast do not directly reflect those of JPO, American University, the Bureau of Justice Assistance or the Department of Justice.
0:57 NB: In this three part podcast series titled Color In The Court: Exploring The Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Treatment Courts, we will talk with guests who are experts on racial and ethnic disparities in the wider criminal justice system and in treatment courts. We’ll discuss solutions to address racial and ethnic disparities in courts, and we’ll hear from a criminal justice team in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, who implemented plans and strategies to make their treatment courts more racially and ethnically equitable. Today’s episode will focus on how racial and ethnic disparities have been created and perpetuated in the criminal justice system, including in treatment courts.
1:34 NB: There is a plethora of research that states people of color are more likely to be arrested, remanded into custody and given harsher sentences compared to their white counterparts. This differential treatment leads to racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system. We’re now joined by professor Angela Davis from American University’s Washington College of Law. Professor Davis studies criminal law and procedure with a focus on prosecutorial power and racism in the criminal justice system. Professor Davis, thank you so much for joining us today. So let’s get right to the fundamentals, how do you define racial and ethnic disparity?
2:07 Angela Davis: Well, racial and ethnic disparity specifically in the criminal justice system, which is where I examine it, I would define that as similarly situated people in the criminal justice system being treated differently based on race or ethnicity. By similarly situated, I mean, for example, a defendant who is a black or brown defendant who is alleged to have engaged in the same behavior as a white defendant, but is treated differently. May have the same criminal record, or lack thereof, but is treated differently than his or her white counterpart, and these dissimilar treatments occur at every step of the process, from arrest through sentencing. So, police officers, for example, who target black and brown communities for surveillance, police officers who stop and search black and brown people while ignoring whites who are engaged in the same behavior, prosecutors who charge black and brown individuals while not charging whites who are engaged in the same behavior or who charge black or brown individuals more harshly than whites. Judges who mete out harsher sentences for black and brown defendants, sentencing laws that tend to affect black and brown people more than whites.
3:29 AD: At every step of the process, we find these unwarranted, unfair racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system and I should say, not just for defendants, but victims as well. Numerous studies showing that black and brown victims receive less favorable treatment in the criminal justice system than whites. So this problem of race, racial disparities in the criminal justice system is a serious and persistent problem, has been for some time and continues to be.
3:59 NB: What has been the impact of the war on drugs on racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system.
4:05 AD: So, you know the war on drugs, which occurred some time ago and really does continue in some form today. First of all, really harsh sentencing laws passed on both state and federal level and sort of a mandate really to law enforcement to go out and arrest our way out of what is really, most believe to be a public health problem. So we have police departments targeting primarily African-American communities, and with time, both African-American and Latino communities and so, even though statistics show that African-Americans do not use drug in any greater quantity than whites, that’s where law enforcement has focused, that is on black and brown communities. So we have police officers really just going out into those communities stopping and searching African-Americans and the majority, by the way, of people that they stop and search, they did not find drugs on.
5:01 AD: Most recently, there was a case in New York, there was actually a lawsuit filed in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights called Floyd v New York where it was alleged that police officers were specifically targeting black and brown, particularly young, men, stopping and searching them without the required reasonable suspicion that the Supreme Court requires they have. The vast majority, like close to 98% of people they stopped and searched, had nothing on them, so it was not even an effective strategy from their point of view. The court actually found that not only did they violate the 4th amendment by stopping these people without reasonable suspicion, but they also violated the 14th amendment because they were discriminating based on race. So, the war on drugs, yeah, that significantly contributed to the racial disparities that we have in the criminal justice system because of course, if you’re just targeting African-American even though the return rate from the statistics I just cited for you from New York was low, you’re still going to end up with more African-Americans if you’re only stopping and searching African-Americans, that’s who you’re going to end up prosecuting, that’s who’s going to end up in our prisons and jails. So it’s been unfair, unjust system and certainly the war on drugs really contributed to a lot of the racial disparities that we see in our system today. Although, it’s not just with drug offenses, but certainly, the war on drugs has really significantly contributed to these disparities.
6:31 AD: And I should add, if the trends continue according to The Sentencing Project, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino males, compared to one in every seventeen white males, so those statistics show you just how stark the problem is.
6:51 NB: Yeah, can’t get much more demonstrative than that. Professor Davis, thank you so much for coming by and providing your insight and providing the crucial context upon which all of the future episodes of the podcast will be built.
7:04 AD: Sure, my pleasure.
7:06 NB: In the late 1980s, there was the introduction of the first treatment court. At the time, part of the argument was that treatment courts could reduce racial and ethnic disparities. Unfortunately, treatment courts have also experienced racial and ethnic disparities in program outcomes where, for example, minorities graduate programs at a lesser rate than their white counterparts. To help us unpack this occurrence, we’re now joined by Dr Dannerbeck Janku. So, let’s get down to the very beginning and just define what is a treatment court?
7:35 Anne Dannerbeck Janku: Sure, well, a treatment court, really it reflects an umbrella of what’s been also called problem solving courts, which is, as you mention, began in the late 1980s with drug treatment courts. There was a recognition that you can’t keep putting people in prison and punishing them when they have a substance use disorder, and so drug courts were started. Over the years, as the model has become more widespread and adopted, it was recognized there’s other kinds of problem that also could be put under this umbrella, things like domestic violence, prostitution, mental health issues that are for people involved in the justice system.
8:16 ADJ: In essence, a treatment court is a court program that includes a number of components. It includes a team of staff, professional staff, a judge, probation officer, treatment provider and others, who work with individuals involved in the justice system because they have a substance use disorder that is part of their offending behavior. They’re usually special dockets where a group of individuals who are all going through the program appear before the judge and their held accountable for their actions. They’re mandated to go in for treatment while they’re in program, which can involve both group treatment interventions, individual counseling sessions, it can include some evidence based programs to address criminal thinking behavior as well as other aspects of their substance use disorder. Also, many times these individuals who are in this kind of a program have other kinds of problems in their lives, that make it hard to then function well in society. For example, they may a low level of education, they may have very few employment experiences, so while they’re in treatment court, they also get support and assistance for other kinds of needs that they may have.
9:29 ADJ: A typical program lasts about eighteen months, it starts out very intense where practically every day of the week you’re going in to get some kind of a service. You’re also being monitored for substance use through what they call urine analysis testing, that happens about three times a week, and then you report to the judge during a special docket and the team is there to support you and also hold you accountable for your behaviors. For example, over the last week you had evidence that you had been using, the judge may give you sanctions such as jail time or some kind of other response to your behavior, it’s all very much behavioral response based with both incentives and sanctions. If you’re doing well, complying with all the program requirements, they start to ease back on the amount of time you have to be involved in treatment sessions, going to court and such, until eventually you’ve demonstrated that you can maintain your sobriety once you leave the program and that you’re on a pathway to being successful out in society, and then you graduate.
10:35 NB: The National Associate of Drug Court Professionals, or the NADCP, best practice standards has a section on equality and inclusion, and the standard recognizes that there are groups who have historically experience discrimination due to race, or sex, religion, or other characteristics, and, as a result, treatment courts should ensure that their programs are responsive to differences within the population served. In addition, in 2010, NADCP’s board of directors charged the membership to examine their programs and determine whether or not racial and ethnic disparities are present. So with all of that being said, why is it important for treatment courts to be concerned with equity and inclusion?
11:11 ADJ: It begins with a look at the justice system and who’s being put in jail or prison. I know some statistics indicated that an African American child born in the mid 2010s had about one in three, one in four chance of being incarcerated or at least under justice system supervision at some point in their life. Treatment courts were designed to be a diversion program to keep people out of prison or jail and what has happened over time is they’ve been very successful, it’s often been the success that’s been experienced with white males who get into the program at higher rates, and who when they’re in the programs, tend to successfully complete them at higher rates. For a long time, no one was looking at this, and there’s still a lot of programs around the country in the US where you ask them “well, is there a difference between African-American and White and maybe Hispanic graduation rates?” They’ll say we don’t know, we don’t track that data. So the first thing that courts are learning to do is to start to actually track data based on race and ethnicity on their populations to see who’s getting in their programs compared to who is going to jail and prison among people who might be eligible for the program and then how are they doing when they get in the program.
12:35 ADJ: Originally, this initiative was designed to raise awareness, but then also to hold courts accountable when they became aware there were differences in who was getting in and who made it through. So that’s where it starts, this recognition of the intent of the program was to divert people from jail or prison, but that in fact what’s been shown through statistics, it’s a differential experience based on race and ethnicity. To recognize not only the race and ethnicity of people, but as our society gets more diverse and we’re starting to ask more questions about things like sexual identity, gender identity, other characteristics, so we’re starting to do that now with other groups too.
13:20 NB: Speaking of your experience with collecting information in the late 90s, you conducted research on treatment courts in Missouri, which revealed that treatment court participants had lower recidivism rates than individuals under traditional community supervision, but later you re-examined the data and noticed that there are some racial and ethnic disparities. I think minorities were graduating from the program than a lesser rate than white folks. In this instance, why was there a lower graduation rate for people of color?
13:45 ADJ: Once again, we know what we know because we collect data on it and in that study that we did in the late 90s, we went through paper files of literally thousands of individuals who had been through Missouri’s treatment court and extracted information that’s not normally collected in a lot of administrative databases. So we did identify things like community, socioeconomic status, that is the context in which someone lives and we found that that helped explained why there was a difference between races because people of color tended to live in communities and neighborhoods of lower socioeconomic status. We also found that it’s very common across multiple settings showing that education and or employment makes a difference in who graduates and who doesn’t, that if you have a higher level of education and, in particular, if you have more of an employment experience, that you’re more likely to graduate from a treatment court. Also being male was another factor, but in terms of lower graduation rates for people of color, there’s probably other things that have never really been looked at too much in administrative datasets that are commonly collected by the courts. Things that we’re starting recognize now are historical traumas, which for a long time wasn’t being addressed in treatment court programs and so people weren’t doing as well.
15:07 ADJ: Another requirement in the past has been knowing that employment will help you do better in programs. This is the structure of your life, when you have a job that kind of status it brings you, other things, it will be important to make sure that participants have a job. Well, what was often happening, especially for African-Americans in their neighborhoods, the kind of jobs they could get were in fast food, so that was not a very appealing kind of job frankly over the long term. So, it’s being recognized now that we have to do more to help bridge over to some kind of career pathway for people at the very start of the program to give them some hope and help them overcome some of the historical challenges that they’ve faced being a person of color.
15:52 ADJ: Another factor that’s associated with lower graduation rates for people of color is age. A lot of the African-American participants, especially men, tended to be what we’d call emerging adults, seventeen to twenty-five years old. That’s a group that’s historically very hard to engage and retain in any kind of a treatment program. They’re at a point of their lives where their brains aren’t fully developed, they don’t necessarily have the long term view of the benefits of following a different pathway, so it’s been hard to engage and retain them and that age group has also had lower graduation rates, and you see a lot of African-Americans in that group.
16:32 NB: Alright, well, thanks again for coming by and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
16:37 ADJ: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure talking to you today, I appreciate that attention to the issue.
16:42 NB: Now professor Gallagher, you’ve been a partner with the Justice Programs Office for the past several years, and we are grateful for your contributions as an RED Program Assessment Tool working committee member. Now you’ve conducted on racial and ethnic disparities in treatment court and have written several papers on the topic. Can you briefly describe differences in the way people of color are treated in the treatment courts compared to their white counterparts?
17:04 John Gallagher: Yes, Nicolas, I’d be happy to and I’d like to thank you and American University for having me on the podcast. The title of this article is Comparing and Contrasting White And African American Participants Lived Experiences In Drug Court. It was published in the Journal of Ethnicity and Criminal Justice and as suggested in the title, we compared and contrasted white participants and African American participants thoughts, opinions and experiences in drug court. To get to the answer to your question about the differences, there were some noticeable difference between the two populations. First, white participants, the two themes to emerge from their data, their experiences, were Time Management and then the second theme was titled Total Abstinence. White participants reported difficulties and challenges with time management in drug court. Specifically, they talked about it was difficult to manage all the responsibilities of drug court with the many other responsibilities they have in their lives. Logically, it makes sense, if someone’s drug testing two to three times a week, they have to do a status hearing with the judge weekly, maybe go to treatment one to three times a week, that can be difficult to balance all of the drug court or treatment court requirements with their life, employment, family life etc. So that was one finding that was specific to white participants.
18:36 JG: Now, in no way would we say that that would not be applicable to other races and ethnicities, I think time management is probably a challenge for all participants, but that was one of the most significant themes and comments that white participants made and then the other thing that was unique to white participants we titled Total Abstinence. This was interesting because we know that, again in some drug courts and some treatment courts, it’s not universal, that white participants tend to have better outcomes related to graduation than, say their African-American counterparts. These participants in this study reported that they were abstaining from their drug of choice, but were still using alcohol and this was the majority of white participants reported still using alcohol while in drug court. Now when we compared that to African American participants, the two themes that they have were not even related to the drug court, they were specific to the quality of addiction counseling that they received.
19:43 JG: The first theme was individualized treatment needs were not being met and this is again from African-American participants experiences. The majority of African-American participants were dissatisfied with the quality of addiction counseling they received, and they felt that because of the strong focus on Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in treatment, they were not able to address some of the issues that may have been associated with their drug use. So, in comparing and contrasting white and African-American participants’ experiences in drug court, in this particular study, white participants were more focused on drug court programming, issues related to time management and then they were very candid and honest about their use of alcohol in the program. They saw it as non-problematic, the use of the alcohol, for the most part, but it is non-compliant with the drug court model. African-American participants had favorable views towards the drug court program, their biggest critiques were related to the quality of treatment they received for their substance use disorders, specifically not receiving individualized treatment, they thought the treatment was too heavily focused on Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous norms and consistently throughout the individual interviews, African-American participants reported they felt that they were coerced into labeling themselves an addict or alcoholic, we labeled that as culturally incompetent labeling. They saw it as not valuable, they saw it as stigmatizing and labeling, and they were dissatisfied with that expectation and that norm in addiction counseling.
21:24 NB: You have some more quotes from African-Americans.
21:26 JG: Yes, I have several quotes I’d like to share with you, and so the quote that I’d like you share with you is from having frequent contact with the judge. Quote: “the judge is what motivates me to graduate. She really cares about me, and my children. This is not what I expected from a judge. I did not expect for her to get to know me on a personal level. I look forward to seeing her each week, and sharing all the good stuff I’m doing with my life now. She is so caring and kind and people like me who are suffering from addictions need someone like her to motivate us and tell us that we can do it because she did it herself.” End of quote. And this one quote, which is obviously very powerful. I mean, this is an African American man or woman in the criminal justice system speaking so favorably about a criminal justice professional, a judge, and this is consistent with the drug court and the treatment court model. Treating participants with compassion, understanding, respect and approaching their treatment in a non-adversarial manner. The second and third themes though are related to the critiques of the substance abuse counselors of the agencies where they get the addiction counseling. This goes back to, there’s a trend, again in my research, where African-American participants have wonderful things to say about drug court and programming, their biggest critiques are about counseling.
22:54 JG: The second theme is an uneasy relationship exists between African-Americans and treatment providers, and I’ll read a quote for you to conceptualize this theme. Quote: “I relapsed once while in drug court, but the judge didn’t know about it because they didn’t pick it up on the drop (urine drug screen), but it wasn’t something I wanted to do, so I discussed it in group. Our counselors always talk about being honest, and honesty is the key to recovery and nonsense like that. So I went to group, was honest about my relapse and then the counselor called my case manager, snitched on me, and I went to jail. Honesty is not part of my recovery and I can speak for all of us, all we do is lie to the counselors and tell them what they want to hear because no one wants to go to jail.” End of quote. This topic I think is really important and something we need to start having a discussion on in the treatment court world, it’s something we need to start talking about and webinars and trainings and conferences, the sharing of information. This participant talked about going to group, an addiction counseling group and being open and honest about his or her relapse on a particular drug, and then the counselor called the drug court, perhaps the case manager, judge, probation officer, and shared that information with them. This theme is unique to African-American participants, and when I say it’s unique, of course this challenge can be for any race and ethnicity a treatment court serves, it’s unique in my research that white participants have not consistently shared this as a problem.
24:43 JG: In the treatment court model, drug courts in particular, there’s seems to be an overreliance on mandating, requiring participants to attend AA or NA meetings and my research has found that that is not best practices, particularly in serving African-American participants, because African-American participants said we need a recovery support system, sometimes we find little value in AA or NA meetings, but we find tremendous value in natural supports in our life. Here’s the key. The men and women that I work with in addiction counseling, I encourage to go to a meeting and determine for themselves if that will be part of their support system, as compared to me saying you must go. Even in the criminal justice system, those that are court ordered or not court ordered to treatment, always the men and women that I treat in addiction counseling, they are the experts of their own life, not me. I may have suggestions, I will support them in their path to recovery, they are the expert on their own life, they know what is best for them. This quote is from an African-American participant in a Texas drug court. Quote: “In my culture, you don’t talk about your personal problems in public. At these AA and NA meetings, these people are talking about how they were abused as a child and how they tried to kill themselves. I can’t relate. I have problems, but I don’t share them there, I share them with my family.” End of quote. You can see in this quote, this African-American man or woman in the Texas drug court talked openly and directly about in “my culture” we don’t, as they say, air our dirty laundry in public. Now in no way would we generalize back to all African-Americans, of course not. We do generalize back to the African-Americans in my studies. We can generalize the findings back to African-Americans in the research I have done, not as African-Americans as a whole.
26:47 NB: Alright, Dr. Gallagher, so you are in Indiana and the Indiana treatment courts conduct mandatory program evaluation every few years. In your research, when the evaluations have identified racial and ethnic disparities in treatment courts, what are some of the solutions that courts have implemented to make their programs more equitable.
27:09 JG: They should complete program evaluations on a regular basis. Utilize the RED Program Assessment Tool offered through American University. Not mandate Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, yet encourage the use of a natural recovery support system. Refer participants to treatment providers who are truly doing evidence-based interventions and can prove that claim, they’re doing culturally informed interventions such as Oaklawn, the community mental health service in my community. We have a group that’s a specialized group for African-Americans who have experienced trauma and also have substance use disorders. To provide individualized treatment and that comes from the lens of saying the clients are the experts of their own lives. Always, even if they’re involved in the criminal justice system, they are the experts of their own lives, not us, and we want to hear their views on recovery support systems. The last recommendation is to invite employers to join the treatment court team. Research has shown, I have seen success firsthand in my community, that these five interventions are key in addressing racial disparity in outcomes and in best serving racial and ethnic minorities in treatment courts.
28:30 NB: Dr. Gallagher, thank you so much for your time and for sharing all the fruits of your research and endeavors and good luck in all of your future endeavors as well, all of your future research, it sounds like you have a long road ahead and we all appreciate you taking the time to walk that road and take us along the path with you.
28:46 JG: You’re very welcome and thank you. This was a great time, great conversation.
28:50 NB: We’ve heard from the experts in the field of racial and ethnic disparity, specifically within treatment courts. It’s clear from their answers that the existence of racial and ethnic disparity in both the criminal justice system at large and treatment court is an undeniable barrier to equitable outcomes for all who are justice involved in the United States. With the scene set of how and why racial and ethnic disparities occur, and an understanding of the effects that these disparities have on participants in treatment courts, our next episode will focus on solutions to address racial and ethnic disparities in the treatment courts. To learn more about the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Tool, visit redtool.org. You can also visit the Justice Programs Office website at www.american.edu/spa/jpo. To learn more about the National Drug Court Resource Center, visit www.ndcrc.org.
Podcast Series: Treating the Opioid Crisis
In this episode of On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center, our host, Anna Koozmin, returns to Cascade County in Great Falls, Montana to learn more about drug treatment for drug court participants. She explains what Medication-Assisted Treatment (or MAT) is - and how certain medications, such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, are used to treat opioid use disorders and prevent opioid overdoses.
0:02 Anna Koozmin: Welcome to On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center. And I’m your host, Anna Koozmin. But first, a quick word from what some might call our sponsors. The National Drug Court Resource Center, also known as NDCRC, is housed in the Justice Programs Office, a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University. JPO provides research, technical assistance training, program evaluation, and capacity-building services to jurisdictions, organizations, and government agencies throughout the U.S. and internationally. The National Drug Court Resource Center is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Court Initiative. NDCRC is the go-to place for drug court practitioners to access a wide variety of resources to make their programs as effective as possible. The ideas and thoughts expressed in this podcast do not directly reflect those of the Justice Programs Office, American University, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, or the Department of Justice. I thought I remember reading that you had a patient who tried Vivitrol and it was lifesaving, but then you had other clients of yours who, they basically replaced their dependency on oxycodone with the dependency on suboxone. So, basically, they were abusing suboxone, which I think you’ve mentioned.
1:24 Jeff Fauque: Mmm-hmm.
1:25 AK: So, what are the best options for patients like that who are abusing MAT?
1:31 JF: So, in treatment court, these, there’s a lot of structure and oversight with each individual participant in the program. Part of that is they’re providing UAs every, several times a week sometimes. And so, we’re able to, to the best of our ability, and nothing is infallible, but to the best of our ability we monitor between the medical doctors, between the treatment team, between the UA place, we can tell if they’re properly taking their medications or not. And so, we monitor that as part of their panels on their, on their UAs. And, of course, if there’s other things popping up, because you, you can be eliminated, the doctor can stop your suboxone if there’s dishonest behaviors going on, and so they have to be, they have strict requirements and protocols that they have to follow to be part of a legitimate medically assisted treatment program. And the communication between the doctor, the counselor, and the treatment team is critical in monitoring that. And, you know, the results are, is if we see any deviation or criminality in what they’re doing, they can be taken off of the suboxone, you know, and possibly, which may end up leading to their termination from an adult treatment court program which would result in their going back in the Department of Corrections System.
3:04 AK: And I guess the same is true for the reverse, where they might be taking medication like suboxone or buprenorphine and not going to treatment, in which case you would also know, because that’s part of the requirements for drug court
3:18 JF: Mmm-hmm.
3:18 AK: So, that would be the reverse…
3:19 JF: Mmm-hmm.
3:20 AK: (continuing) …of that too. So kinda like a checks and balances…
3:23 JF: Yeah
3:23 AK: (continuing) …I guess between…
3:23 JF: Yep.
3:24 AK: (continuing) …the two.
3:25 JF: Yep.
3:26 AK: So, what do you say people who are still critical of it?
3:31 JF: Go get educated. That was the bottom line for me, is, and I know I use the word I was ignorant, lot of times, that’s kind of an offensive word sometimes, and people come, become, become very defensive when you say you’re ignorant; go learn about it. But the, that’s the truth of the matter. I didn’t understand it. See, I was just seeing the people that were abusing it, because you can develop a dependency to this medication. It, it can become physically and psychologically addictive. However, I was just seeing the abuse portion of it that was unregulated, untreated, that they were just getting it off the streets and using it in the same way that some other medications that are available out there that people get their hands on and they use, as, such as Adderall and drugs like that they can be used and become abused, and become addicted to it. But when I saw it from a different perspective, because I had never worked with a doctor who ran a legitimate medically assisted treatment program, and I just saw the abuse side of it. I didn’t see the compliance side of it. And so, when I saw the compliance side of it, it was a completely different result. When they were engaging in treatment, when they were assigned caseworkers, when they had the external motivators and supervision which, and then the oversight of the doctor and their MAT program. I’ve seen tremendous results with it. These people are restoring their lives. And again, I’m not a fan of somebody who doesn’t address their core issues, their behavior problems, their mental health issues and stuff. To think that it’s, their, their life issues are gonna resolve by taking a pill or a medication, that doesn’t happen. The therapeutic side of it is critical and there’s success in being involved in a medically assisted treatment program.
5:38 AK: So, was there something in particular that happened that convinced you, or was it just, you know, observing and witnessing the people whose lives who have been totally transformed?
5:48 JF: No, it took place at the conference. And, you know, I had an opportunity, well, I was challenged on a lot of my moral modality type of thinking. I was very emotional about the suboxone because, again, I didn’t understand it and I was emotionally involved in it because of the patients I’d previously worked with were abusing buprenorphine. But they weren’t part of a legitimate, medically-directed MAT program. And so, you know, my idea was just, you’re just selling them another addiction. And that’s not true. That’s not true. If it is done the way it should be done, it’s highly effective. Yeah, it was just the material I had an opportunity to learn. I probably went in there with my feathers ruffled a little bit, looking to be on the fight about this. I had to humble myself and listen to the people who’d I, I had only been a counselor for four or five years and I had to take a step back and listen to these guys had been, these guys were PhDs, they were medical doctors, they had been working in the addiction field for, for decades, and my own recovery humility is important to me, my willingness to learn and be open to new ideas and thoughts, developing a relationship with a specific medical provider that worked with the courts, that worked with the treatment facility, it was just a completely different experience. I know I keep saying it’s highly effective, but that’s just what I have seen. I’ve worked with many, many patients who’ve been on suboxone, and when it’s done appropriately, it provides society with a person who is a contributing member and living life in recovery. And so, I think that that’s what we want in society.
7:40 AK: Absolutely.
7:41 JF: So.
7:41 AK: Can you talk at all about any old policies that Gateway had about MAT?
7:48 JF: A lot of that came from me being, and several of the other counselors too, that we were very adamant about abstinence. Abstinence, abstinence, abstinence. That’s the only way you can achieve recovery. And that still is highly true and accurate. However, you know, treatment of addiction is fairly new science. It hasn’t been around that long. And, you know, we’re still learning how to effectively and efficiently treat individuals suffering from an addiction. But there was a lot of counselors, including myself, that, again, had never had the opportunity to work with a medical provider who had a very professional and ethical buprenorphine type of program. We had just seen the individual coming in who said, man, I’m addicted to suboxone. I been getting it on the street. And so, alls we saw was, oop, here’s something else for somebody to get addicted in and you’re telling me that just because you get a prescription for it, well, isn’t that how all our opiate problems began in the first place? And, and a lot of ways as people obtained prescriptions for them and became addicted to these substances, and so, we were looking at it from that perspective. We’d just never had the experience of working with a legitimate provider who, who worked with us. And so, I was adamantly against it, because that’s just what I saw it as, I believed it was just another addiction. You know, it’s different. Yes, you can become physically dependent on it. You do. However, you’re not taking it in the way that is part of addictive behavior. It’s not being abused. And what I’m saying, when it’s being done properly, it’s being monitored by medical professionals, by therapeutic professionals, treatment team, support staff, and when there’s that much oversight, and structure, and somebody is willing to do what they need to do and fully participate honestly in a program like that, then you start seeing incredible restoration in people’s lives. They start going back to work. Like I said, they start repairing relationships and marriages and they start being able to come out of the homeless shelters and get their own place to live. So yeah. I just think when, when the appropriate combination of therapy in medically assisted treatment, I think where we are in our treatment of addictions today, and I’m not saying everybody needs medically assisted treatment, and we evaluate those people to try to determine who’s a good candidate for it and who is not. But, for those that are good candidates, I’ve seen way more success than failures with it. It doesn’t even compare.
10:42 AK: Can you speak a little bit about where you see gaps in the treatment field and if you have, if you can offer any solutions to those challenges? What, any ideas you might have for that?
10:53 JF: Funding. Money. As everybody was always gonna talk about. We need, we need money to, again this is a long conversation to have. In a perfect, in a perfect world, if somebody depending on the criteria they need for what level of care they’re to be placed in, if somebody is in active addiction to, like, heroin or methamphetamine, more than likely they need to be in an inpatient facility. We need to streamline the process to get people in because when you’re in addiction, you’re very impulsive. And sometimes the window to get a person into treatment is a very, very, very short window. And if you tell them, yeah, we can get you a place, but there’s not a bed available for three to four weeks, we probably are never gonna see that patient again. They’re gonna be out using, and I, personally, I’ve lost people who have gone out there, used, and died, and directly related to their addiction.
11:55 AK: Because they were waiting to seek treatment?
11:57 JF: Because they were waiting for a bed date to get into treatment. So, we certainly can do a lot better in streamlining that, so yeah. I guess, in a perfect world, everybody walks and says I ready to do it, I’m ready to go to treatment, we can okay, let’s, let’s take a look at resources and have them on a bus or whatever, and get them into treatment, like, within 24-hour period. Get them into detox. Again, detox centers are very difficult. We’ve had troubles here in the city of Great Falls where there was nowhere to detox. You know, a lot of the time, patients had to say they were suicidal just to get into detox or else the emergency rooms would turn them away. They had greater priorities, they had other things, and so, there was nothing that they could provide on that level. They’re different today. We actually got an addictions doctor who’s come to work in Great Falls and some of that is changing. Thank goodness! The other detox unit here in town is at the inpatient treatment center, but they don’t take Medicaid patients and 95 percent of the people who need treatment don’t have any insurance or they’re on Medicaid. So, they can’t use it. They can’t go and be in there, so it’s a money thing. The success in somebody’s treatment is the resources that are available to offer them stepdown treatment also, so you begin at the very highest level of care and you begin working your way down to intensive outpatient. Well, actually, I guess in a perfect world, if somebody goes into intensive outpatient, and I think, personally, this would increase our long-term success rates for people, you go to intensive inpatient, from there you go to a sober living house which, the availability of sober living beds is just ridiculous. They’re, they just, they’re not funded, they’re not available. And so, the people who literally, a lot of these inpatient treatment programs don’t last for more than thirty days. And somebody who has been in active addiction for one year, five years, ten years, fifteen years, you don’t get cured from addiction. This is process that you have to relearn everything and how to live your life and how to think. And, ideally, to have more sober living homes available that people could transition to and spend some time there is a sober/safe community, and then transition to intensive outpatient, and then transition to outpatient. But, you know, I mean, there are huge challenges. We had women who come in who are pregnant and they’re addicted to substances, and the treatment centers won’t allow them to come in because they’re too high risk. And so, they get rejected and there’s no place, there’s, you have a, a pregnant woman who says, I need help, I don’t want to use, I know what I’mma do to my baby but I can’t stop on my own and so we’re trying to place them and we have the treatment facilities and we can’t take them. She’s too high risk.
15:11 AK: And that’s so crazy because it’s so hard to get somebody to seek help when they need it and so you’re just turning them away…
15:18 JF: Yeah.
15:19 AK: (continuing) …based on resources. That’s sad.
15:20 JF: Yeah, and it’s like it’s so sad and heartbreaking and frustrating because it’s like, okay, good luck. You know? And something bad is gonna come out of that situation. That baby is gonna be affected because she’s gonna continue to use.
15:37 AK: Mmm-hmm.
15:38 JF: And so, not only is the mother’s life at risk, that child’s life is at risk, and they want help, and nobody’ll give it to them. Within our society there is this, this disconnect with this moral modality towards addiction and with mothers who are struggling with addiction and people passing judgment on them and saying, you must not love your child ‘cause you can’t stop using. And I have met very few mothers who are in active addiction that don’t love their children. They can be in active addiction and they would still give their life for their child in a heartbeat. But they can’t stop using. That’s how powerful this disease is. That’s the effects it has on the brain and how you process information, your lack of impulse control. It messes your brain up. I often can, I often refer to addiction like a traumatic brain injury because that’s what it does to your brain and people don’t understand that. Where is the compassion and the empathy for that? These are mothers, these are brothers, these are sisters, and daughters. I, and I get emotional when I talk about this because I have two daughters and I thank god every day that, you know, there were certain people that didn’t give up on me. And that were willing to give me another chance. I can’t in, and you know, that’s part of why I’m a counselor today, is to be that person and give people hope who don’t have hope, so people can change their lives. Unfortunately, this disease takes a lot of lives and it affects a lot of people in our society, but until, until we start recognizing how severe this problem is and what we have to do as a country, and as a society to address this problem, to get people better, you know, we’re gonna continue to have these problems. You can build as many jails as you wanna build and hire as many cops as you wanna hire, it’s not gonna affect the addiction problem in this country. We need the funding for sober living homes, for treatment centers, you know, outpatient and inpatient treatment center. We need to increase the availability to people who need intervention and treatment. And also for family members, that also require support because, you know, yeah, sure, addicts suffer, but their families suffer just as much. I spent twenty years in law enforcement, in and out of the courts, testifying and taking prisoners to and from court and, you know, fulfilling my role as law enforcement officer. And, you know, to be honest with you, my perception was, these courts are about punishment: make people pay for the crimes that they did. That was my experience for twenty years. Justice. And, when I was introduced to Adult Treatment Court to see how this court operates, it blew my away. I, I didn’t understand. I was in shock. Because you actually had this treatment team and it wasn’t about punishment. It was about opportunities for addressing the elephant in the room. The issue was the addiction. Yes, they are responsible for their behaviors, but what is the driving force behind this? It’s their addiction; they way they think and the way they behave. And so, getting introduced into a court, it was all about holding them accountable. And there’s certainly consequences if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do. But providing them the structure and resources to learn how to live life in recovery so they’re not coming back into the system because, in our courts system, and you know, and everybody knows, that people, they get fifteen years, two years they go in and out and they’re being paroled in three years, and they have done nothing but become better criminals and they have done nothing to address their thinking and their behaviors or their addiction. Their addictions never went away, they were just temporarily in remission. And so, when they come back out into our society, they’re doing exactly what they did before. Even when you have people that really wanna change their life and they caught a felony charge for drug possession, they go out and they’re trying to get a job or housing and people are rejecting them again, and again, and again. Eventually they just say, screw it. I’m just gonna go back to how I was living
20:01 AK: Right.
20:02 JF: At least I was numb the whole time.
20:04 AK: At a certain point, the society is also playing into the perpetuation of the cycle.
20:09 JF: Absolutely.
20:10 AK: Even if we dump resources on resources into them.
20:13 JF: You can point as many fingers as you want, but at the end of the day you’re gonna keep getting the same results if you’re always looking to blame somebody.
20:20 AK: Is it, didn’t Einstein say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes? Or something like that?
20:29 JF: I thought that’s what I came up with?
20:31 AK, JF: (both laugh).
20:33 JF: No. Yes. Definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
20:41 AK: Yeah. So, I just had one last question for you, unless you had anything else. But I was curious, did you ever repair those relationships with your old colleagues in law enforcement?
20:53 JF: You know, some I certainly have. There are certain individuals that, you know, and I look back at them and I don’t blame them. But there was several pretty special friends that I have that were compassionate. They were as compassionate and empathetic as what they believed themselves to be as a law enforcement officer, and, yet, sometimes then, when we’re put in those situations, when we can practice what we preach, a lot of people don’t have that within them. I had several of my police friends, and sheriff friends, law enforcement friends certainly that were supportive and were empathetic and compassionate because they saw the suffering that I was enduring, and my family was, instead of basically abandoning me and getting away from me. I don’t hold any resentments towards them. Because I understand people’s behaviors and the way they think, but the individuals I have maintained relationships with, I have a great amount of respect and gratitude towards, and, and they’re, they’re good men and women. And they were kind and compassionate and caring and loving. And, you know, there’s not a lot of them, but I certainly still have some of those guys in my life and I’m thankful for that. So, thank god for second chances and sometimes third and fourth chances. None of us are perfect in this society. Everybody’s got skeletons in their closet. A lot of times we wear masks out in the public to pretend like we don’t have any issues going on our life. But, the truth of the matter is, there’s no perfect families, there’s no perfect individuals. We all have crosses to carry. It’s important that we start taking care of each other instead of trying to lift ourselves up above one another. I think we would have a much better place to live in this country if everybody started believing in that and then walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. You can’t say you’re a good person and then do nothing to show compassion and empathy towards your fellow human being. In twenty years in law enforcement, I had the opportunities to work with all different agencies, FBI, DEA, the Secret Service. Helped guard Al Gore once, Sheriff’s offices, police offices, border patrol, customs, you name it, I had the opportunity to work with them. I also, in my relatively short career, last eight years of working with addicts and their families, those individuals who struggle with addiction have just as much character and empathy and compassion and goodness in them as any FBI agent I ever worked with, or any police officer, or any border patrol agent. They’re good people, and they need our help.
23:36 AK: I want to thank the Cascade County drug court teams, specifically Michelle Koppany and Jeff Fauque, for sharing their thoughts and stories. You can download the episodes from this podcast series through the iTunes Podcast Store or on NDCRC.org. Just search NDCRC in the Podcast Store. I also want to encourage you to check out the National Drug Court Resource Center website at NDCRC.org if you are looking for any resources or information on problem-solving courts. We have an extensive clearinghouse of research pieces and operational documents for practitioners working in problem-solving courts. We also have an interactive map and database of all operational drug courts in the country. If you work in a juvenile drug treatment court, please check out our website at AU-jdtc.org. The Resource Center is funded in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice, nor any of its components, operate or control, are responsible for or necessarily endorse this podcast or the NDCRC website, including, and without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided. Podcast, artwork, mixing, and editing by me, Anna Koozmin. Original music by Peter Gresser, titled “Skipping in the No Standing Zone.”
In this episode of On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center, our host, Anna Koozmin, returns to Great Falls, Montana to meet with Jeff Fauque, a former Cascade County law enforcement officer and current counselor for the Cascade County drug court, who nearly lost everything due to his opioid addiction. As a former law enforcement officer who struggled with addiction, recovered and became a treatment counselor, Jeff offers our listeners a unique perspective on the opioid crisis.
0:02 Anna Koozmin: Welcome to On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center. And I’m your host, Anna Koozmin. But first, a quick word from what some might call our sponsors. The National Drug Court Resource Center, also known as NDCRC, is housed in the Justice Programs Office, a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University. JPO provides research, technical assistance, training, program evaluation, and capacity-building services to jurisdictions, organizations, and government agencies throughout the U.S. and internationally. The National Drug Court Resource Center is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Court Initiative. NDCRC is the go-to place for drug court practitioners to access a wide variety of resources to make their programs as effective as possible. The ideas and thoughts expressed in this podcast do not directly reflect those of the Justice Programs Office, American University, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, or the Department of Justice.
1:05 AK: So, what is your name and your position within the drug court team?
1:10 Jeff Fauque: My name is Jeff Fauque and I, for the last three years, have been the counselor assigned to Adult Treatment Court in Cascade County.
1:19 AK: I know you have a really interesting background in how you ended up in that position, so would you be able to share a little bit about your story and how you got here?
1:28 JF: I actually was in law enforcement for approximately twenty years. I was an immigration officer with the Department of Justice for about four years, then I spent a little over fifteen years with a Sheriff’s Office in Montana, where I was actually Under Sheriff. I ended up in the hospital, I had two procedures for sinus surgery done, and that was probably around 2000, and 2004. I was given opiates, as usually after treatment. People are prescribed painkillers and that was the first I was introduced to opiates. My addiction kinda, it developed, it was a process. I started to use opiates. First, it started off legally, as they were prescribed by the doctor, but once I started abusing them, it progressed into a physical and a psychological addiction, so. And that lasted up until October 4th of 2010. I was in active addiction, probably about four or five years, somewhere in there. Well, the thing is, is I was preparing myself, actually, for an addiction way before I was introduced, just because a lot of stuff that was going on in my life. I got a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and, but there’s been other, other things that also contributed to me latching on to an opiate because it, in the beginning, made everything better for me. And so, in the beginning, it helped me escape a lot of my pressures, and my depression and anxiety and all that stuff that I was dealing with. But I wasn’t taking care of myself and I was making some poor decisions, thinking I was in control, and, and it really didn’t matter that I was in denial for a long time. And I was arresting people for the very thing I was doing on a daily basis. But I would often try to separate myself from them because I never was an IV user or I never snorted, crushed the pill and snorted it. I just took it how you’re supposed to take it. And that was kinda the, how I justified and separated myself from the actual addict when, you know, truth be told, I was just as much as an addict as everybody who is in addiction. There was no difference, so.
3:49 AK: And so, how did you transition into your role as a counselor at Gateway? From your own recovery to this position?
4:00 JF: So, I ended up being criminally charged. I was charged with a felony burglary. The very night I actually was caught in a person’s house on duty, and my intentions were, I was looking for drugs, and I had entered the house, and I certainly wasn’t in the right state of mind, but I had run out of the opiates and I was in withdrawals, and alls I could think about was getting something to ease my pain and, and the homeowner came home. And I ended up being confronted by the homeowner and it just kinda crescendoed from there and ended up calling the sheriff and the country attorney and that night, a couple of my deputies actually ended up, because I was suicidal, too, that evening, and I ended up being taken by two of my deputies to a treatment center. It wasn’t long term, it was short term, in Kalispell, Montana, where I spent, I don’t know, four days before, and I was still in a lot of denial about the severity and I still had this, this delusion that I was gonna fix all of this, but my wife had told me that I couldn’t come home until I got the treatment I needed. And, of course, I was pretty angry about that. And, but, eventually, I agreed to go to a treatment program in Billings, Montana. I was there, I, from the time I went in on October 4th, to the time I got out was was approximately forty days. I faced some criminal charges which ended up being reduced to misdemeanor, which I was very thankful for. I began my own recovery program, going to AA support group meetings, getting my own counseling, and trying to figure out what I was gonna do with my life because I just, everything I knew my life to be was just destroyed. I didn’t know how I was gonna take care of my family. I didn’t know if was going to prison. I didn’t know if my wife was gonna leave me or if I was gonna lose my kids, just everything that goes along with addiction. With the support of my family, I made the decision to go back to college at 42 years old, which was a really, kind of a scary experience for me. But I wanted to become an addictions counselor. And I went to the University of Great Falls and their addictions program. And I am getting my degree, and from there, I was accepted into an internship at Rocky Mountain Treatment Center in Great Falls. And, from there, they offered me a job and I began taking on a caseload there. I was there for about three years and I went to work for Gateway, where I am now. Probably wasn’t with Gateway more than four weeks and they came to be and they asked me if I’d be interested in being the treatment court counselor, which I wasn’t real excited about because I was still dealing with a lot of my baggage and garbage and resentments towards law enforcement, because I was looking to blame something or somebody, still, for my addiction and what had happened to me. I had harbored some feelings about, that law enforcement didn’t take care of me, that when I fell apart, everybody kinda distanced themselves from me. Which, you know, it wasn’t anybody else. It was my responsibility and the choices that I made, but I still had this resentment towards any type of law enforcement entity. And so, when they came and they asked to do treatment court, it’s like, that’s the last thing I wanna do. But it was important for me. You know, I took some time to reflect on it, and I prayed about it and I came, I guess to the realization that it was, this was an opportunity for me, actually, to be able to sit on a treatment team. And I offered a very, a unique perspective, because I could offer the law enforcement perspective, the counselor perspective, and an individual who’s struggled with addiction themselves. So, yeah. And then, it’s been about three years since I’ve been in treatment court, and being the primary counselor for treatment court, Adult Treatment Court, participants.
8:05 AK: Well, first of all, thank you for sharing your story. I think that’s really powerful. And you said it best yourself, that you can speak from so many different lenses
8:15 JF: Right.
8:15 AK: And I think that really highlights, you know, a lot of what treatment courts are trying to do is gauge the intersection between the criminal justice system and substance use and mental health.
8:26 JF: Mmm-hmm. Depending on our influences and our environments, we become kinda creatures of our environments. And so, we latch on to certain ideas and mentalities, and, you know, certainly, as I spent so many years in law enforcement, I was very black and white, moral modality thinker. And, you know, honestly, if you would have talked to be ten years ago, I would’ve told, told you the answer to the drug issues in this country: build more prisons and hire more officers. That would’ve been my answer and I would’ve fought you tooth and nail to make you believe that, too, because I’m an expert. I was a cop and I couldn’t be more wrong. Certainly, I mean, we have to have laws in place that regulate this stuff, and there needs to be some punitive punishments, I guess, on, you know, in certain situations. However, that doesn’t work. And, if people take a step back and look at it, our, our jails are full. Our prisons are full. And, a majority of those individuals, it’s for drug charges. And, even as an officer, I can tell you 90 percent of the people I arrested, drugs or alcohol were involved somehow. And the answer isn’t just thinking that, if you put laws into effect this addiction problem is gonna go away or resolve itself. Because this is a societal problem. This is a mental health crisis. This is a medical crisis in our country. And a lot of people get excited, sometimes, when they just talk about, and I, I don’t want to get into a debate of addiction being a disease or just a bad decision-maker, but if you take the time to research it, and understand that, I think there’s no doubt in the beginning of everybody’s addiction there’s just some outright poor, bad, terrible decisions that are made by the individual. You know, and I’m as much as guilty of that as anybody. However, once it takes hold, an individual has to be treated appropriately to learn how, because the brain changes. You don’t think normally. Like I said, I was in law enforcement for twenty years, and I stand in the middle of somebody’s living room thinking about getting ahold of some drugs. That’s not rational behavior, rational thinking. That’s certainly not who I am. But I was responsible for that and I had to pay the consequences for it, so.
10:55 AK: Can you share a little bit about how you think your own thinking as changed from your former role in law enforcement to your role as a treatment counselor?
11:07 JF: Hmm. How long can this interview be?
11:10 AK: As long as you want
11:11 JF: (laughs).
11:12 AK: I have had, I will say that a lot of your team members have been like, you need to talk to Jeff because I’m really interested in people who were once anti-use-of-medication-assisted-treatment.
11:26 JF: Mmm-hmm (laughs).
11:26 AK: (continuing) …and are now all for it.
11:28 JF: Yeah. I mean, I can start with talking about medically assisted treatment.
11:31 AK: Yeah, I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
11:33 JF: Okay. So, as a counselor and as a law enforcement officer, some of the problems we’re gonna face in society, which people I don’t think fully understand, is when you shut, when we do shut off the pharmaceuticals, we strengthen the laws of the pharmaceuticals, and, in which we are, I mean, there are some much better laws going into place, much better accounting for individual providers prescribing and stuff like that, but what will end up happening is, and we’re already seeing it, certainly, here, is in increase in heroin. So, when you’re talking about opiates, if it’s, it’s supply and demand. The demand is a long ways from ever going away in this country. And, if there’s a demand for it, there’re gonna be people who wanna make money who are gonna supply it. And so now we’re seeing an increase in heroin, which is very dangerous, obviously. At least with pharmaceuticals, they could gauge how much they were taking. But the heroin, they have no idea the strength of…
12:34 AK: Right. They have no idea how much fentanyl…
12:35 JF: Nope.
12:35 AK: (continuing) ...carfentenil is mixed in with the…
12:39 JF: Nope.
12:40 AK: (continuing) …normal heroin.
12:41 JF: And, of course, we’re seeing a lot of overdoses…
12:42 AK: Mmm-hmm.
12:42 JF: (continuing) …taking place. And so, that’s just, unfortunately, the transition that we’re gonna see take place within our country and within our towns and our cities. But medically assisted treatment, I think that when I first began to see people, they would come in and they would talk about the buprenorphine that they were abusing, it, they were shooting up. That, because it, it was more readily available as we’ve clamped down on certain pharmaceuticals like the oxycodones, the percocets, and stuff like that, but the suboxone clinics have popped up all over the place. And so, now you’ve got a supply of suboxone within our society, and it makes its way to the streets. And so, people, if they can get their hands on that, they will, and they do. So, the initial patients that I began seeing, a lot of them were reporting, man, my addiction to suboxone is horrible, the coming off of suboxone is worse than coming off of heroin, and so they would share all these things as a counselor to me and I’d say, oh man, it’s just like trading one addiction for another. How can you tell me that suboxone or buprenorphine is medication that can be helpful to the addict? You know? It’s all about greed, and just these machines wanting to make money and legalize drug dealing. And, so those were some of my thought processes on it. So, part of change in us is to get rid of some of our pride and to, to be a critical thinker, and to be more open to listening to alternative ideas. And I was so set in my thought process and my mentality because of my, I guess my personal experience, but the bottom line: I was ignorant. I didn’t have the education, I didn’t understand it, yet I was passing judgment on it, making decisions when I was uneducated. And I was a big Vivitrol fan, which is the injectable naltrexone. And I think Vivitrol is a wonderful medication, which people get injections of Vivitrol once a month and it’s an opiate blocker, so, if people use an opiate, or it’s also used for alcoholics, they don’t get the effects, the euphoric effects. So, we find that that has been tremendously successful among people that, a lot of my patients that I’ve seen. However, what I’ve come to see is buprenorphine is an appropriate medication and can be very effective for people learning how to live life in recovery. And so, you get some arguments with people that say, well, you’re on suboxone, you’re not in recovery, and that’s not what recovery means. Recovery is based on how are you living your life? Are you holding a job? Are you developing and repairing relationships in your life? Do you have healthy relationships? Do you have stable housing? Are you out on the street robbing people to buy your drugs? Or are you a productive member of society contributing: you’re going to a job every morning, you know, you’re taking care of your kids and you’re living up, I guess, to your societal obligations in a healthy way. And I’ve watched buprenorphine allow people to do that. There are some people that, you know, and I don’t fully understand all the science and physiology behind the medication. I’m not a doctor, a scientist. But I do believe that there are some people, that their addictions are so severe that they literally may require to be on a medication like suboxone the rest of their life just so they can function as a normal human being. So, I don’t believe in the suboxone clinics that just pop up and you go in, write a medication, and say, here, this is gonna fix your problems. Because you’re not dealing with the core issues of what also contribute to the problems in that individual’s life. They need to learn healthy coping skills. They need to learn how to identify their thinking errors, to live a healthier life, and so I think it’s critical and I, because I’ve, we’ve seen, we work with a doctor here in Great Falls who is awesome, she works with us. You know, and they, they are basically told you can’t receive your suboxone unless you’re engaged in some sort of outside support, such as through therapy and support group meetings, stuff like that. And, when we, what I have seen in the combination of appropriate therapy and ongoing treatment, it, with a combination between that and the medication, seen tremendous, tremendous restoration of people’s lives. So, I’m a big fan of medically assisted treatment. I don’t think it, I think of it more as, and, of course, a lot of people would argue this, I make a comparison with a diabetic. They need their, their medication to stay well, and, if they don’t, they die and when it’s appropriately done and responsibly done. This is the medication that some individuals may need so they can stay healthy as well.
18:00 AK: I want to thank the Cascade County Drug Court Team, specifically Michelle Koppany and Jeff Fauque, for sharing their thoughts and stories. You can download the episodes from this podcast series through the iTunes Podcast Store or on NDCRC.org. Just search NDCRC in the Podcast Store. I also want to encourage you to check out the National Drug Court Resource Center website at NDCRC.org if you are looking for any resources or information on problem-solving courts. We have an extensive clearinghouse of research pieces and operational documents for practitioners working in problem-solving courts. We also have an interactive map and database of all operational drug courts in the country. If you work in a juvenile drug treatment court, please check out our website at AU-jdtc.org. The Resource Center is funded in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice, nor any of its components, operate or control, are responsible for or necessarily endorse this podcast or the NDCRC website, including, and without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided. Podcast, artwork, mixing, and editing by me, Anna Koozmin. Original music by Peter Gresser, titled “Skipping in the No Standing Zone.”
The opioid epidemic has plunged towns, cities, and entire regions into crisis. Over the next three episodes, On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center explores how one Montana drug treatment court is battling a flood of opioids in their community. Join our host, Anna Koozmin, as she travels to Great Falls and speaks to members of Montana’s 8th Judicial District Drug Treatment Court.
0:03 Anna Koozmin: Welcome to On the Docket with the National Drug Court Resource Center. And I’m your host, Anna Koozmin. The National Drug Court Resource Center, also known as NDCRC, is housed in the Justice Programs Office, a center in the School of Public Affairs at American University. JPO provides research, technical assistance, training, program evaluation, and capacity-building services to jurisdictions, organizations, and government agencies throughout the U.S. and internationally. The National Drug Court Resource Center is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Court Initiative. NDCRC is the go-to place for drug court practitioners to access a wide variety of resources to make their programs as effective as possible. The ideas and thoughts expressed in this podcast do not directly reflect those of the Justice Programs Office, American University, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, or the Department of Justice.
1:05 Jeff Fauque: And the very night I actually was caught in a person’s house, on duty, and my intentions were, I was looking for drugs and I had entered the house and I certainly wasn’t in the right state of mind, but I had run out of the opiates and I was in withdrawals, and alls I could think about was getting something to ease my pain and the homeowner came home and I ended up being confronted by the homeowner and it just kinda crescendoed from there and ended up calling the sheriff and the county attorney and … (fades out).
1:56 AK: That was Jeff Fauque, a former Cascade County Police Officer who now works with the Cascade County Drug Court in a different capacity. In this episode, we will discuss opioids, meet some folks who have been impacted by them both personally and professionally, their facts and how drug treatment courts are dealing with this crisis. I visited a place that is still working to improve the rate of drug use in their community: Great Falls, Montana. I spent some time with a few individuals who work with the Adult Drug Treatment Court and Veterans Treatment Court in Cascade County where Great Falls is located. And when I asked them about drug use in the community, this is what they had to say.
2:34 Elizabeth Brandeberry: Opiates is definitely on the rise. I’ve seen it increasing as I’ve been here in the past three years.
2:39 Danny Williams: People using a lot of prescription drugs, a lot of opiates.
2:42 EB: In terms of drug use there is a lot of meth and there is a lot of opiate addiction.
2:48 Andrea Fisher: We’re seeing heroin. It was always creeping in, you know. Now we have police officers carrying Narcan.
2:54 EB: Opiates, opiates is a problem in the entire nation. Some parts of the nation don’t have as much of the meth problem. But, we do.
3:01 AF: There was a little bit of a dip in meth use, and then it started getting more popular.
3:06 Valerie Kamps: Most of what we see at this point is methamphetamine
3:09 Clint Houston: Poly-drug use is, is quite common and so you’ll see people using methamphetamines and heroin, or marijuana and heroin, or methamphetamines and marijuana. Or, sometimes, all three.
3:23 Gayla Gooden: No matter what race, color, age you are, meth is go-to.
3:28 EB: It’s been pretty likely that that methamphetamine is laced with heroin.
3:33 EB: When I travel around Montana, I’ve seen paintings about saying “meth – not even once”. And they’ll just do street art about it. Meth is a problem in Montana in general, not just in Great Falls.
3:45 Clint Houston: I was speaking to our drug narcotics detectives, our, our narcotics detectives and I asked them, how much, how much meth are we using a day? And, and their best guess was about a half a pound a day. And so, when you look at a half a pound a day, that’s huge. In a little community like this, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, we’re using half a pound. You run that out, at seventy-five dollars a gram, and you’re looking at over six million dollars a year, in our community. And that’s huge.
4:25 AK: Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, the latest data from 2016 reported that the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdoses were West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. The latest data from the CDC also estimates that, on average, one hundred and fifteen Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. 66 percent of overdose deaths in 2016 were opioid-related. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 667,000 people were currently using meth at the time of taking the survey. There were also about 65,000 young adults, aged 18 – 25 years old, who used meth in the past month when they took the survey. Between 80 and 90 percent of people who use heroin are also using meth. Nearly 80 percent of people who use heroin reported misusing prescription opioids prior to switching to heroin. That last stat gets at the crux of the issue. We are seeing people develop a substance use disorder from the pain medications, like oxycodone or hydrocodone, that they are prescribed for injuries or while recovering from surgeries. While there have been regulations put into place, like the CDC’s prescribing guidelines and the growing use of prescription drug monitoring programs to prevent patients from “doctor shopping”, or from doctors becoming “pill mills”, we are seeing those people turn from these pills, after they have finished their original prescription, to buying prescription opioids illegally on the street and then, eventually, to heroin. Buying prescription opioids on the street can be expensive, which is part of the reason that people are switching to heroin; because it is so much cheaper than prescription opioids. Discouraging as this may sound, the data indicates that the states that have been most adversely impacted like, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, saw notable decreases in emergency department visits related to non-fatal opioid overdoses. Opioids refers to a class of drugs with legal, and illegal, used to relieve pain. Doctors prescribe opioid medications to treat moderate to severe pain, often after injury or surgery. They work by attaching to the receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain, reducing the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain. Opioid pain medications are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor. But, because they produce euphoria, in addition to pain relief, they can lead to dependence and misuse. Opioids are considered to be depressants. There are three types of opioids: natural opiates, semi-synthetic opioids, and synthetic opioids. Natural opiates are derived from a chemical found in plants, like the opium poppy, and is included in drugs such as morphine and codeine. Semi-synthetic opioids are created in labs from natural opiates. Examples of these include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and heroin. Synthetic opioids are developed without any natural opiates and are completely man-made. Examples include fentanyl, tramadol, and carfentanil. To put these drugs in perspective, acetaminophen and aspirin are each 1/360th of morphine. Hydrocodone is about as strong as morphine. Oxycodone is about 50 percent stronger than morphine. Methadone is three times stronger than morphine. Heroin is between two and five times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is between fifty and a hundred times stronger than morphine and carfentanil is ten thousand times stronger than morphine. This is all to say that illegal drug distributors are not being methodical about the amounts of fentanyl or carfentanil that they are mixing into heroin. Meth, on the other hand, is classified as a stimulant. People can take methamphetamine by inhaling or smoking it, swallowing it in pill form, snorting it, or injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water or alcohol. Meth increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain, which why people experience a rush, which is the feeling of euphoria, or, what some people call a “flash”, when they use it. In some cases, people take meth in a form of binging known as a “run”, giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours up to several days. People who use meth are known to have extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and become violent. Meth overdoses can lead to stroke, heart attack, or organ problems such as kidney failure, caused by overheating. The CDC estimates that there has been a 255 percent increase in deaths from stimulant use, mostly from meth, between 2005 to 2015. However, there is nothing like naloxone, the opioid-reversal drug, to reverse a meth overdose. Great Falls, Montana, is the third largest city in the state with just under 60,000 residents. It sits in the center of Cascade County, which has about 80,000 residents. 89 percent of the county’s residents identify as white, with African Americans and Native Americans as the next two largest minority groups. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the per capita income at the time for the county was 17,566 dollars, and 14 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. Great Falls is part of the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, also referred to as HIDTA, which is funded and coordinated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy to monitor areas of high drug trafficking around the country.
10:10 EB: We’re right on the drug road from Mexico to Canada, so a lot of different drugs get brought in here, and it’s a little but cheaper here than it might be elsewhere.
10:20 AK: That was Lizzie Brandeberry, who is the coordinator of the veterans treatment court. Meth manufacturers can make the drug in small, secret labs with inexpensive, over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient found in cold medicines like Sudafed. You might know this if you have seen the TV show Breaking Bad, which focuses on a high school chemistry teacher who manufactures meth out of RV using simple ingredients that he buys at a drug store and hardware store. However, most of the meth found in the U.S. is manufactured in “super labs” in the U.S. or Mexico.
10:57 Greg Pinski: Well, with regard to methamphetamine, I mean, it, particularly throughout the western United States, methamphetamine is a substantial issue in the criminal justice system.
11:08 AK: This is Judge Pinski. He presides over the Cascade County Adult Drug Treatment Court and Veterans Treatment Court.
11:14 GP: Primarily because of, with the legalization of marijuana in contiguous states, the, the Mexican drug cartels have shifted their focus from the, the manufacture and harvesting of marijuana and transporting to the United States to the large-scale industrial manufacture of methamphetamine. So, that has surpassed marijuana coming in and coming across the border and up the interstate to Canada which runs right through us. And, so that being said, we, we really don’t see any local production or significant production of methamphetamine anymore because the meth that’s coming across the border from Mexico is so potent and so pure, and it’s more cost-effective from a, from a drug standpoint to buy that methamphetamine than it is to produce your own. And so, we, we will always have a meth problem because of that issue, but, you know, but the, the opioid crisis is much more significant because, from a treatment standpoint in my experience, I’m not a treatment professional, but it’s much more difficult to treat the opioid addiction than it is the methamphetamine addiction, so it’s clearly an issue in, that, that we face every single day.
12:30 AK: Mexican drug cartels have turned to manufacturing and trafficking heroin and meth into the U.S. because they can no longer compete with the more potent, higher-grade domestic varieties of marijuana being produced in greenhouses in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. In 2015, customs officers seized 6,429 pounds of meth and 514 pounds of heroin at the border. While the opioid crisis was getting underway in the U.S., the Mexican drug cartels were monopolizing on the North American market for meth. Public health experts have said that the opioid crisis, and the efforts to combat that drug, has made room for meth use to also make a comeback. It’s no secret that we have overcrowded our prisons in this country. With the system broken, a group of justice experts established what is now known as “problem-solving courts”. With the crack cocaine epidemic of the late 20th Century, the establishment of drug courts in 1989, in Miami-Dade County, revolutionized how the judicial system would approach drug offenses and addiction. Drug courts are a subcategory of problem-solving courts and are also referred to as treatment courts and accountability courts. I do want to be transparent. There have definitely been some criticisms of drug courts over the years, and I will be discussing these in part three of the miniseries. By choosing to be part of this program, participants have the chance to be diverted from the commonplace court system and the sanctions that typically follow. These courts are unique because they focus on rehabilitating and treating individuals entering the criminal justice system rather than taking on the normal penal role as the traditional courts do. They emphasize individualized justice where the court identifies the services the participant needs as well as provide the victims of the offense any services needed for their recuperation. They integrate intensive supervision, mandatory drug testing, incentives and sanctions, and treatment approaches to ensure that individual receives the treatment for their substance use. And lastly, they collaborate with a team of court officers, a judge, and the treatment community to achieve the goal of restoring the participant as a productive member of society. I want to introduce you to the team members who work on the Adult Drug Treatment Court and the Veterans Treatment Court of Cascade County. We will be hearing from them throughout the three-part series.
14:46 GP: Greg Pinski. I’m a district judge and I also preside over the 8th Judicial District Adult Drug Treatment Court and Veterans Treatment Court.
14:52 EB: My name is Lizzie Brandeberry and I am a coordinator for both the Adult Drug Treatment Court and the Veterans Treatment Court.
14:59 AF: My name is Andrea Fisher. I’m one of the coordinators for the Veterans Treatment Court and the Adult Drug Treatment Court in the Montana 8th Judicial District.
15:06 Megan Bailly: I’m Megan Bailly and I am the clinical manager at Gateway Community Services.
15:10 JF: My name is Jeff Fauque and I, for the last three years, have been the counselor assigned to Adult Treatment Court in Cascade County.
15:20 Danny Williams: Danny Williams. State Probation/Parole Officer. The liaison between Probation/Parole and the Drug Treatment Court and the Veterans Treatment Court.
15:30 GG: Gayla Gooden, the AmeriCorps Vista.
15:32 CH: My name is Officer Clint Houston, from the Great Falls Police Department and I work in our Support Services Bureau.
15:39 Michelle Koppany: My name is Michelle Koppany and I am the case manager.
15:43 AK: Michelle has been with the drug court for nine years and she actually volunteered for them when she first started. How many years have you been working with the drug court?
15:51: MK: Nine years. Yeah. Nine years here in this court.
15:56 AK: Okay. I actually heard that you volunteered…
15:58 MK: I did.
15:59 AK: …for the first few.
16:00 MK: I did, I did. I had been working at Gateway Recovery Center for thirteen years and I had been a part of the Drug Court Team probably three years prior to going into private practice, and I really was so very passionate about the treatment courts and that was actually the reason why I went into private practice, because, at that time, it looked as though my position over at Gateway was going to shift and I wasn’t going to be able to be a part of the treatment courts, and so, I felt at that time that it would behoove me and this community to go into private practice and, if I had to, volunteer for a while which I did the first, at least, year and half, I believe.
16:44 AK: Wow.
16:45 MK: Yeah. Yeah.
16:46 AK: That’s very selfless.
16:47 MK: Well, and it was risky, I know, but it was, it just was something that I believed so wholeheartedly in and I honestly believed that, you know, the face of case management was really changing and there wasn’t funding for case management, but I am very passionate. If people’s lives don’t change, if their recovery environment doesn’t change, if we just help them maintain sobriety for a couple of years, that wasn’t gonna be enough. That we really needed to look at their whole life, the whole person and what that encompassed and what needed to be different after they left treatment court.
17:22 AK: She takes us through what she does when she first meets with new participants.
17:26 MK: So, when somebody comes into my office for the first time, when a participant comes in, and I do try to get them in the first month of them entering into the court, you know, many times if they’re not sober, the work that I can do is limited. However, I can get a good feel for what’s going on in their lives and so, I sit down and I’m doing basically a case management evaluation, you know, I’m talking with them, I ask them a lot of questions and I’m talking with them about their life in general, you know, where do they live, where was the last job they had, you know, are they on food stamps? Do they have Medicaid? Do they have a family? Have they seen their children? Do they have parenting plans if their children are not with them? You know, all of these things. Do they have legal issues? 90 percent of the people that walk into my office don’t just have legals that, legal issues in this court, in the justice court system, but they also have them in our municipal courts or our city courts. So many times I’m finding that they have warrants around the state, they have warrants here in Great Falls in the City Courts. And so, part of what I’m doing in that first month or two is stabilizing all of that, is helping them address those things, those things that they have just kinda been pushing under and, you know, ducking behind this car and that car to, to get away from some of those things. So, my job is to look at all of that. And I pride myself because I have been a case manager in this community for such a long time. I pride myself on being a one-stop shop. When they come into my office, I’m not telling them go over here to the Office of Public Assistance and you can go get on Medicaid and food stamps. No, I’m doing that in my office. I’m not sending them out the door and telling them, you know, call one of these five doctors and I’m sure somebody can get you in for medically assisted treatment. I’m doing that in my office. So, the things that have been barriers to them in the past, the inability just to walk into a, a building and ask for help, I mean, if they could ask for help, we, we wouldn’t have them. And so, they haven’t learned that skill yet, in being able to ask for help. So, I’m trying to teach them that in my office, and in a comfortable environment, where they don’t feel intimidated or like they’re being judged. It’s a one-stop shop. I can do all that right in my office.
19:48 AK: So, I’m assuming that a lot of those, meeting those different needs relate to phase progression in the treatment courts?
19:57 MK: So, in terms of when somebody first walks in Phase One, obviously what we wanna do is we wanna, we’re looking at just stabilizing that individual. And so, I’m not gonna start talking to them, necessarily, about a job, I wanna know the lost, last job they had or where they last worked, but I’m more so going to be look at where are they sleeping? Are they fed? Do they have clothing? Do they have personal hygiene, you know, are their basic needs being met? And so, that would be what we would be setting goals around in that first phase, would be looking at, you know, are they even able to get, are, you know, sober? And so, if they’re not, then we’re looking at, I’m looking at medically assisted treatment options. We’re working with a provider on an inpatient bed dates, communicating with MCDC, you know, out of Butte, which is our inpatient facility here in Montana. So, there’s different things, obviously, that I’m doing in that Phase One. After Phase One, now I’m starting to look really at, with them, you know, how are they going to maintain, and so, do they have their GED? Do I need to link them to go back to school to get their GED so that they can actually achieve some of the goals that they originally had in mind for themselves, many, many years ago, maybe? Or, are they ready to go back into the workforce? And, if they are, then we’re gonna be linking, looking at resume building, job service. If they’re ready to jump right into work, then my job is to understand who in this community is hiring and who is gonna hire people that, you know, have the particular felony or misdemeanor that they might be have, you know, that they have. And so, that’s what I’m looking at in Phase Two. In Phase Three, and, and I guess I should back up. In Phase One, again, as I said before, is also legal issues because if they have warrants, we need to get those quashed. So, Phase Two, we’re looking at, I’m looking at, you know, what do they wanna do in terms of a career? Do they need more education, so on, and so forth. Then, I’m also looking at what do they need to do to get things like modes of transportation in place. They might have been using the bus here in Phase One, but in Phase Two, let’s look at getting your driver’s license. And so, we’re looking at what it takes to get your driver’s license. And, a lot of times in Phase One, we found out that they have lots of restrictions because of driving without a driver’s license, those things. We’re working, we’re building, I guess, we’re building from one phase to the next. So, there’s all kinds of things like that. And then, Phase Four they’re moving into, like, a lot, what we call our alumni group. And our alumni group is for individuals who are no longer in treatment, they might have phased out of treatment now, so they’re still doing their community support groups and such, but they’re also responsible for coming to alumni group once a month, which some are fourth Tuesday of the month and I lead that group. And that is a combination of people who have previously graduated from treatment court and are coming back and then people in our later stages of, of treatment, as well, in, that are actively in court.
23:09 AK: Once they complete all the phases and their treatment requirements, they graduate from drug court. While I visited these treatment courts, I was lucky enough to witness two graduations: one from the veterans treatment court and one from the adult drug treatment court. I can confidently say that there was not a dry eye in the room during these graduations. The graduates of these programs would get up, make a speech about how far they’ve come, and people who were there to witness their accomplishment, friends, family, mentors, other drug court participants, would stand up and share stories about the growth that they have witnessed of these participants. Meeting different requirements and meeting goals do affect how participants move from one phase to another. Once they meet all of the phases, they graduate from drug court. Of course, all of the drug court team members were present for the graduations and each graduate gave at least one shout out to at least one person on the team. I was able to tell that the team truly cares about the success of the success of their participants. This is Lizzie again, giving her take on why drug courts are important.
24:16 EB: For the justice system, I think if we have more drug courts then we could address the problems more readily; because sending people to prison, or just putting them in jail or straight probation is not changing the problem. It’s not making a solution, it’s just putting people out of the way for a little while and not solving any of the, any of the issues they have, that have caused them to use drugs. But in treatment courts, we solve the root problems and then people can move on with their lives. So, I think if we move forward with more drug courts around the nation, I know it’s expanding, but we could always use more, and I think if we put treatment as a higher priority than incarceration, then we could actually solve the root causes and reduce the opioid crisis and the drug epidemic.
25:04 AK: At least one of the drug court team members we have already heard from in this episode used to be critical of the drug court model and those who needed medication assisted treatment to overcome their substance use disorder. They also never thought they would end up in the role they have now. We’ll hear more about that person and their story in the next episode. Thanks for listening.
25:27 AK: You can download the episodes from this podcast series through the iTunes Podcast Store or on NDCRC.org. Just search NDCRC in the Podcast Store. I also want to encourage you to check out the National Drug Court Resource Center website at NDCRC.org if you are looking for any resources or information on problem-solving courts. We have an extensive clearinghouse of (inaudible) and operation documents to (inaudible) practitioners working in problem-solving courts. We also have an interactive map and database of all operational drug courts in the country. If you work in a juvenile drug treatment court, please check out our website at AU-jdtc.org. The Resource Center is funded in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice, nor any of its components, operate or control, are responsible for or necessarily endorse this podcast or the NDCRC website, including, and without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided. Podcast, artwork, mixing, and editing by me, Anna Koozmin. Original music by Peter Gresser, titled “Skipping in the No Standing Zone.”