Anoka County to launch new drug court, expand veterans treatment court through new federal grants
Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2016
In 2012, Anoka County became one of the first counties in Minnesota to launch a specialized court program aimed at supporting veterans struggling with chemical or mental health issues. This week, county leaders announced that two new federal grants will allow Anoka County to expand the Anoka County Veterans Treatment Court, while also launching the county’s first adult drug court program focused on reducing recidivism among non-violent drug offenders.
The grants were awarded by the United States Department of Justice through a nationwide, competitive process. Over three years, the county will receive $350,000 to launch the Anoka County Adult Drug Court, and $300,000 to expand the Veterans Treatment Court to include more participants and increased training for program officials.
“This is an extremely positive and exciting development for our community,” said Tenth Judicial District Judge Bethany Fountain Lindberg, who will preside over the Anoka County Adult Drug Court. “Thanks to strong partnerships within our county, the Anoka County Veterans Treatment Court has proven to be an invaluable and effective tool at helping veterans struggling with chemical and mental health issues. These grants will not only allow us to build upon this important work, but to also offer the proven and cost-effective drug court treatment model to many more people struggling with addiction.”
Anoka Veterans Treatment Court to Expand
The Anoka County Veterans Treatment Court takes a collaborative approach to addressing the specialized needs and challenges of veterans who find themselves in criminal court.
Like other specialty problem-solving courts in Minnesota, Veterans Treatment Court is a voluntary program and relies on the defendant’s active participation and commitment to program goals.
A team of partners – including judges, attorneys, mentors and veterans’ advocates – work with program participants to ensure success. Defendants must plead guilty in order to participate in the program, and are required to maintain sobriety. It typically takes 18 to 24 months for a participant to complete the four-phase program.
Since its inception, the Anoka County Veterans Treatment Court has graduated 22 participants, and has 19 active participants. The program boasts a zero recidivism rate among graduates. Prior to entering the program, about 75 percent of participants were repeat offenders.
Through the new U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance grant, the program will be able to increase its capacity to at least 25 participants, while offering a peer mentoring program and legal representation for program participants. In addition, the grant will fund increasing training for the Veterans Court team, as well as additional staff positions to support the program.
“We’re really proud of the hard work that’s gone into the Anoka County Veterans Treatment Court and how successful it’s been,” said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo. “We’re looking forward to using this grant to build on that and to reach even more veterans.”
“The success of our veterans court in Anoka County has been built on strong partnerships, and a shared commitment to helping veterans get the treatment and services they need and deserve,” said Tenth Judicial District Judge Jenny Walker Jasper. “Through these efforts, we are working to improve public safety and the lives of many who have served our country.”
Anoka County to Launch Adult Drug Court
Utilizing this new federal funding, Anoka County plans to open its first adult drug court in November 2016.
Drug courts are specialized court programs that target non-violent criminal offenders who suffer from addiction to alcohol or other drugs. The programs give drug-addicted offenders the opportunity to avoid jail or even prison after demonstrating a lengthy period of sobriety, and the ability to stay crime-free and productive. Research shows that this approach has proven more effective than traditional court strategies at reducing repeat offenses. This is especially true for certain offenders, such as those having a high recidivism potential. Drug Courts result in more defendants turning their lives around and becoming healthy, law-abiding citizens. Research also shows that when these strategies are implemented correctly, they improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars.
To support individuals facing addiction, the Anoka County Adult Drug Court will bring together justice system and community organizations to deliver treatment for chemical and mental health, as well as other services that foster positive change in the participants’ behavior. The program will also provide strict supervision of the offender, including frequent drug testing and regular mandatory check-in court appearances. The program will stress accountability for participants, and will utilize a range of immediate sanctions and incentives to foster behavior change. The program is expected to last 18 months for each participant. Program officials anticipate serving 25 to 30 people at a given time, and between 50 and 60 people during the three-year grant.
The federal grant will allow the program to hire a drug court coordinator and evaluator, and fund the participation of a probation agent and defense attorney.
Treatment Courts: A Proven Model
Over the past several years, Minnesota has experienced a significant expansion of drug court, veterans court, and other treatment court programs across the state. Today, Minnesota has 57 treatment courts either currently operating or in the final implementation phase, including 11 multi-county programs.
Since 2012, Minnesota has conducted three statewide evaluations of treatment court programs. These evaluations, as well as many other national studies, have shown the real, positive impact of treatment courts: reduced recidivism among participants, long-term cost savings in the criminal justice system, and better outcomes for offenders struggling with addiction, including higher rates of employment, stable housing, and educational attainment.
A summary of these evaluations, with links to complete reports, is available here