Drug Court Program feeling growing pains
January 12, 2017
PORTALES — The Ninth Judicial District Court appealed to Roosevelt County commissioners for help in Tuesday’s commission meeting.
Kevin Spears, the Ninth Judicial District Court executive officer, told commissioners on Tuesday that due to the success of the Drug Court Program, the program is outgrowing its office on the third floor of the courthouse.
The item was a discussion-only issue.
He asked commissioners to consider allowing the program to use a collection of unused offices and a conference room in the courthouse basement. Spears understood the space was partially used to house voting machines, but would appreciate county help on any available space.
Spears told commissioners that the eastern New Mexico Drug Court program celebrated its 100th graduation last year, and the Roosevelt County program has graduated eight people since that time with two more graduating this spring.
Spears said the drug court program as an alternative to incarceration. The drug court runs $35 per day per participant, compared to $65 per day if that same person was an inmate.
“We’re saving the county money, and we’re turning out graduates that have a 94 percent success rate after graduating,” he said.
Spears said the court clinician and the program manager are both working out of the one office currently used for drug court, as well as group therapy and individual therapy being conducted there and drug testing.
“We’ve run out of space,” he said
While he noted County Manager Amber Hamilton has found the program temporary offices at the chamber of commerce building, Spears said the courthouse is preferred for logistics and infrastructure.
“Ideally, if we’re going to be a good program, and we’re going to be successful for Roosevelt County, I think this will kick us to where we can continue to grow. We’re at maximum capacity as it is,” Spears said, adding that the program is at the point of having a waiting list.
“Nationwide, individuals who graduate from a drug court program, 75 percent of those individuals are never re-arrested for a felony. That alone is a huge number,” District Judge Donna Mowrer added at the end of Spears presentation. “Our numbers here (in Roosevelt County) are closer to 89 percent.
“We’re not a perfect program, but if we can keep 89 percent of people from re-offending, we must be doing something right. Drug court, now, is the best bang for the buck.”
Mowrer said the courts save $27 for every dollar spent on the drug court program.
“That’s a savings from everything from cost to the sheriff’s department for arrests, costs to the detention center for holding to places that you wouldn’t think it would be possible to have an effect, such as foster care placements and health care costs, because you’re not paying for individuals in your indigent fund who have an addiction and can’t pay their hospital bills.”
Commissioner Dennis Lopez echoed that sentiment, saying he had also seen firsthand how successful the program is.
“I’ve worked with that population for 19 years now on a private level, and I can tell you that it’s a very, very successful program,” Lopez said. “I think we need to do anything we can to sustain the program.”