Attorney’s office introduces new drug program
Summit County’s new drug court aims to solve a problem afflicting many in the jail system and reduce the number of drug addicts who are convicted without receiving proper treatment.
According to Summit County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Bates, the program is a "problem-solving court" molded on similar programs throughout Utah.
"If someone is charged with possession of drugs, they can choose to enter drug court instead of going to trial," Bates said. "And if they successfully complete the program, the conviction will be lifted."
Bates said that previously, Summit County did not have a lot of resources for treating people with drug problems and residents who did want help had to find treatment programs in other areas which are often very expensive. A local drug court was established to help people who were at high risk of relapsing and fix the problem instead of just finding temporary solutions, like jail, he said.
"A lot of studies have been done about drug courts and in the long run, having a program like this reduces the cost of managing and treating drug offenders," Bates said. "The attorney and sheriff’s office can put fewer resources and less effort towards dealing with drug offenders and there is a lower rate of relapse."
The court was established in part by the Summit County Attorney’s Office, Valley Mental Health and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. Bates said that convicted drug users can apply to enter the 18 month-long program which includes drug tests, therapy sessions and incentives for staying clean.
"When someone signs up for the program, they sort of give up some of their constitutional rights and it allows us to act quicker if the person goes off track than a regular court could," Bates said. "If someone is on regular probation, it can take a few months for the courts to act when a relapse happens."
Summit County Jail Commander Kati Booth, who has helped oversee a drug court program before, said they are very successful in helping addicts stay out of jail. The Sheriff’s Office will be responsible for performing drug tests on the participants three times a week, which allows them to know immediately if someone relapses.
"Most drugs metabolize within 72 hours so if someone is only drug tested once a week, things can be missed," Booth said. "This program allows us a more intimate connection with the participants and builds better relationships. It is a very intensive program and not easy, but a lot of people want and need this kind of help."
Bates said that there are already four participants in the drug court’s pilot program and he has heard from multiple people who are interested in joining now that the court is up and running.
"If someone quits the program or is dishonest, then they will have to go to trial for the original charges," Bates said. "This program fills a hole in our system and will help people in the community who need help. This is the first problem-solving court in Summit County."
Eligible participants must have a felony drug use charge and no other convictions. Booth said Summit County will apply for federal grants to help reduce the cost of the program for the participants and Summit County. The cost of the program is still being determined based on number of participants and funding.
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