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Drug court team will address how to fund program

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Launching any new program involves money and getting a drug court established in Barry County will be no exception. Funding is one of the issues that must be tackled by the local Drug Court Planning Committee before the program is operational.

According to statistics compiled by the Drug Courts Coordinating Commission, the average cost of drug court per participant is $6,190. By comparison, the cost of one year in prison is estimated at $14,392. Based on those numbers, taxpayers would save approximately $8,200 per participant who successfully completes the drug court program.

Some of the costs associated with the drug court program can include expenditures for individual counseling, group counseling, drug testing, group education, drug test kits, drug test confirmation, drug court sessions, vocational support, residential support, trackers, client transportation, day treatment, family counseling, housing, sample collection and drug court staffing.

During the last fiscal year, the Drug Courts Coordinating Commission paid about $1,500 per participant per year. According to Ann Wilson, alcohol and drug abuse coordinator with the Office of State Courts Administrator, the remaining $4,500 per participant had to be raised through other funding sources.

In her role as advisor to the Barry County Drug Court Planning Committee, Wilson has suggested several methods of funding for the new drug court. These include: client fees, local fundraising; county funds; federal grants; foundation grants; and funding through probation and parole.

In Missouri, drug courts are supported through general revenue with $5.1 million coming from the Drug Courts Coordinating Commission and $1.2 through the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Funding is on the Barry County Drug Court Planning Committee's agenda.

"Right now we are getting our program guidelines in place and looking for funding options for the immediate future," said Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox. "Drug courts are not cheap; however, they eventually show a savings to taxpayers in the long run."

The drug court system has proven itself to save money not only in the area of incarceration but in the areas of probation, foster care and youth services as well.

Because drug court participants often are able to live with their families while they go through the program, there is a savings of $7,220 per year for each child who remains in the home rather than being placed in foster care.

Savings is also realized when drug court offenders graduate from the program and do not reoffend. Due to the higher recidivism rate for probation, it is estimated, according to a study conducted in the city of St. Louis, that the state gains as much as $6.32 for each $1 spent on drug courts after four years of operation.

"Money is saved due to a reduction in recidivism, fewer drug babies, lower healthcare costs and lower mental health services," said Judge Victor Head. "As a result of participation in the drug court system, people will earn higher wages, people will be paying taxes and they will be less likely to utilize the welfare system."

Judge Head said the Barry County Drug Court, once established, would be eligible to apply for state funding for fiscal year 2009. That money must be applied for by July of 2008.

Until state funds are received, Clark Community Mental Health Center will be providing some funding for substance abuse rehabilitation programs, mental health treatment and family, parenting and anger management counseling.

"The drug court team is also hoping in the near future to be in a position to accept private donations from local communities, businesses, faith-based programs and organizations, charity events and fundraisers," added Judge Head.

This is the third in a series of articles focusing on a proposed drug court in Barry County.



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