Drug court saving money
Ryan Summerlin November 23, 2012
Summit County’s new drug court program could go away if funding isn’t found before the trial period ends.
Summit County Attorney David Brickey estimates that if all seven of the current drug court participants succeed in graduating, the county will save $70,000 a year.
"That’s the cost of a full-time prosecutor," Brickey said. "If they complete the program successfully, they are not a drain on the system. We are not having to rebook them and house them if someone stays out of our jail system."
Utah calls these experimental programs "Problem-Solving Courts," and gives counties one to two years to "prove themselves," he said.
"You have to be certified by the state, and they give you a time period you can perform as a Problem-Solving Court," he said. "At the end of that problem solving period, if you don’t have funding in place, mechanisms to show it will be self-sufficient, they won’t certify you."
Everyone involved during the 11 months Summit County’s drug court program has been in place has been serving pro bono, including the attorneys, judge and Valley Mental Health.
The Summit County Attorney’s Office is looking for ways the drug court can be more self-sufficient, such as applying for a 501c3 tax exemption status so people can donate money.
"It’s a way to partner with the community in a way that shows immediate returns for investing in this," Brickey said. "Urinalyses alone are about $15 each. I would have a hard time coming up with $45 a week myself, so it can be challenging. But every person who is in the program saves between $3,500 to $10,000 if they complete it successfully and are not a drain on the system."
Brickey said all the Wasatch Front counties have drug courts, including Wasatch County. But Summit County does not.
"And we need to fix that," he said.
Brickey said the program has been working. Since it has been in operation, two of the participants have graduated to a higher level within the program.
"We’re curtailing their daily appearance in court because they have been doing well," Brickey said. "If you told me a year ago this is where these two individuals would be, I would not have thought it possible."
Both individuals were drug users, and one had a severe alcohol addiction as well.
In October 2010, Cassie White, 24, Park City, launched her car off the corner of Highland Drive and landed in a house.
She was charged with third-degree felony jail damage, two counts of class A misdemeanor assault on a health care provider, class A misdemeanor reckless endangerment, class B misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, class B misdemeanor interference with arresting officers and class C misdemeanor speeding.
"Today, Cassie’s got a job," Brickey said. "She’s been sober for several months, and she’s actually very pleasant when she comes to court. Previously she was very dour, frustrated and angry when she’d come to court. Today, she looks wonderful."
Brent Ryberg, 23, Park City, was charged last November with second-degree felony burglary, second-degree felony possession of a controlled substance within a correctional facility and class B misdemeanor theft.
"He was fighting with his family and was told not to come around his parent’s home, and he had a twin bother that wouldn’t speak to him," Brickey said. "Now, he has a job and is trying to figure out how to get back in school. On Monday, he was in court telling everyone he was looking forward to having Thanksgiving with his family."