Envision parents once weakened by drugs restored and reconnecting with their children. Imagine a previously unemployed substance abuser learning new job skills or obtaining a GED. Picture someone thanking, even hugging, the police officer who arrested them because that is what put them on the road to recovery.
I have experienced this and more while working in Drug Court, one of Kansas City, Missouri’s three problem-solving courts that focus on treatment rather than incarceration.
There is nothing more powerful or inspiring than watching someone’s life transform before your eyes; and studies show Drug Courts are more effective at doing this for people with substance abuse disorders than incarceration or probation and treatment alone. The difference is that Drug Court keeps individuals in treatment long enough for it to work while holding them accountable.
For a minimum of one year, Kansas City Drug Court participants receive intensive treatment, live in sober and stable housing, submit to random drug testing and review their progress frequently with the Drug Court judge and the Drug Court team. They are rewarded for doing well with small incentives and honored at a graduation ceremony upon completion. Participants also may be sanctioned when they do not comply with a court order or condition of the program.
Drug Court also is a more cost-effective way to reduce crime. It costs about $4,100 to provide someone substance abuse treatment for six months compared to approximately $12,000 to incarcerate them for the same period of time.
Many participants entered Kansas City’s Drug Court because of drug violations. However some committed other crimes including stealing, prostitution and domestic assault. All had substance abuse disorders and nearly 70 percent reported using substances for a decade or more.
Ultimately it is the close bond between the Drug Court team and our participants that makes the difference.
Our case managers know the participants’ families, their significant others, their habits and the stresses of their lives and what may cause them to relapse. The clients become like family, and we offer them support just as if they were our family. It’s a reminder of the positive impact relationships and connecting with people that even strangers can have on the outcome of a person’s life.
Their incredible stories of redemption uplift us, but they also remind us that there are far too many people for whom treatment is still out of reach. Each year we experience loss through drug and alcohol use, through overdose, through suicides and homicides. It is a reminder that the work we do each day is with real purpose and that we must keep trying.
Graduates of Drug Court will be honored with a graduation ceremony at 4 p.m., Thursday, May 15 in Courtroom G, 1101 Locust Street. All are welcome to attend.