Schenectady County

Editorial: Schenectady County Drug Court grant worth the expense 

They help addicts, make public safer

Fewer repeat crimes committed by drug addicts.

A significant reduction in prison time for drug addicts, resulting in fewer hardened criminals over the long term and significantly lower cost of incarceration for taxpayers.

Sometimes, you look at a federal or state grant for some program and wonder whether it’s just a waste of good tax money.

The $400,000 grant awarded to the Schenectady County Drug Court from the U.S. Department of Justice for better mental health screening of incoming participants to the program is just the opposite.

Drug courts allow those convicted of low-level crimes associated with their drug use to enter programs to get the treatment they need.

In exchange for successful completion of the program, drug users receive alternative sentences to prison, such as probation, as well as help getting their lives back together. If they don’t complete the program, they face further sanctions from the courts.

For the person addicted to drugs, drug court is an opportunity.

For the public, it’s an added measure of safety and security.

The three-year grant will allow the county’s program to hire a mental health evaluator to work at Ellis Hospital, where that person will assess the mental health conditions of new and existing participants in drug court. This will allow better identification of the individual’s mental health issues and allow more appropriate placement in treatment programs.

Drug programs have been effective over the years in helping get people off drugs and helping reduce the crimes they commit over time.

A 2013 study by the Center for Court Innovation looked at 86 drug courts around the state to determine their effectiveness. The report supported the need for drug courts and backed up their positive impact on individuals, the court system and the general public.

Among its conclusions were that court participants remained less likely than comparison offenders to have any rearrests, and participants averaged fewer total rearrests up to three years after drug court enrollment.

More than 93,000 individuals have participated in state court drug treatment programs through January 2016, with 42,800 graduating from the program. The state also reported that 867 drug-free-babies have been born to drug treatment court participants, which means fewer children starting life with as many medical and social issues, and with a better opportunity to avoid the problems of their parents.

By helping people get off drugs and reducing the instances of repeat crimes, well-run drug courts have proven to have a positive effect.

Any expenditure of money that can help them be more effective, such as this grant for mental health evaluation, is taxpayer money well spent.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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