Anyone willing to earn it deserves a second, or even third, chance. That’s one of the beliefs behind the Richland County Treatment Court.
Established as a replacement for the former DUI Court, the Treatment Court has a name that says it all.
“It’s treatment-based,” coordinator Lindsey Boushee said. “We have a larger team, including legal, mental health and community representatives. The huge difference with this is that there’s no fees for the participants.”
The Treatment Court is structured as an alternative to traditional pre-trial monitoring, incarceration and probation supervision for individuals who have struggled with a substance use disorder and are involved with the criminal justice system.
As of Friday, Feb. 7, Treatment Court has one participant. Boushee is optimistic that more residents will consider the program.
“You don’t necessarily have to go through an attorney or a budget to seek treatment. Give me a call. If you have a very recent charge with drugs or alcohol and you want to get help, that’s what we’re here for,” she said.
Treatment Court is available for residents who are 18 years or older. They must be facing charges of a class A misdemeanor or greater and have a criminal history including a prior misdemeanor or felony drug or alcohol offense.
Participants must receive a chemical dependency or substance use evaluation and have a chemical dependency or substance use disorder diagnosis. Additionally, participants must be willing to participate.
“These are adults,” Boushee said. “They’re still going to be held accountable for what they do. But we’re handling it in a different way, where each is on a case-by-case basis.”
Another key component of Treatment Court will be the use of incentives and sanctions for participants. It’s as it sounds: incentives reward good behavior, sanctions punish bad behavior.
“Sanctions could be as hard as jail time, but we don’t want to push that. We’d like to keep participants out in the community. If we can keep them stable, if we can help them get jobs or go back to school, this is a good thing,” Boushee said.
Boushee encourages local organizations and businesses to get involved, a simpler task than might be assumed. Incentives for Treatment Court participants could include coupons to local restaurants.
“We’d love to be able to show our participants that there is community support, there are people interested in their health,” Boushee said.
In addition to her work in Richland County, Boushee is also coordinator of the juvenile court in Cass County, North Dakota. Through her work in the legal field, she’s learned about human nature.
“You can’t just expect somebody to show up in court,” Boushee said. “There has to be something else. They have to know they’re not alone.”
Treatment Court consists of five phases occurring over the course of a year. The obligations for participants include attending periodic court sessions, compliance with treatment and supervision and maintaining continuous sobriety from drugs and alcohol.
“We give our participants a resource guide, but we’re also reaching out for them If they need their license renewed, we can point them in the right direction. If they have children, we’re looking to help reestablish the family. There’s individual therapy and there’s group therapy available,” Boushee said.
Boushee does not want to downplay the challenges that await treatment court participants. It can be hard to achieve and maintain sobriety. She credits the full Treatment Court team, whose members include Richland County District Court Judge Bradley Cruff and Community Service Director Darlene Lee, for having a big picture attitude.
“We’ve discussed as a team, ‘What happens after?’” Boushee said. “Our representatives worked to design something that can be achieved in phases. This includes completing a sobriety plan.”
Participation in and graduation from Treatment Court does have to have a stigma attached to it.
“It’s an accomplishment,” Boushee said.
For more information, contact Boushee at 701-671-1537 or firstname.lastname@example.org.