News Local/State

Drug Court Helps People With Addiction Get Treatment Instead Of Punishment


Flickr/Joe Gratz/CC BY 2.0

The Champaign County Drug Court takes people who are cycling in and out of the criminal justice system for drug-related crimes and gets them connected with treatment and hands-on support from a host of people.

“Our team consists of a clinician, substance abuse and mental health provider case manager, coordinator, probation officer" and more, said Judge Jeffrey Ford of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Champaign.

This week, 14 people will graduate from the voluntary program that’s been running for nearly 20 years. To date, the program has graduated 277 people. Ford said nearly 40 percent of people who begin the program complete it, in an average of about two years.

“We take what's called high-risk, high-needs people," he said. "People who are in and out continuously of the criminal justice system, for various reasons. For us, probably about half have been to penitentiary before."

In order to graduate, participants must be sober for at least one year, complete substance abuse treatment and be involved in sobriety-based self-help groups. If employable, participants must be seeking employment or be employed. They must also either have a high school diploma or GED, or be in the process of obtaining one.

Ford said the program emphasizes building trust with participants, many of whom have underlying trauma that research shows can lead to substance abuse and mental illness.

"It’s one thing to get them off of drugs for a year, but if we don’t get to the reason why they used in the first place, they’re just going back right away," Ford said.

For every dollar invested in drug court programs, studies show the community saves anywhere from $2 to $4 down the road.

Based on these estimates, Ford said the program has already saved Champaign county about $3 million dollars.

The graduation ceremony will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, at the Urbana Civic Center.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman