Drug addiction court and veterans’ court merge into Clay-Becker treatment court
The specialty courts in Becker County have changed a bit recently. They previously included the Becker-Clay County Drug Court, the Becker-Clay County Veterans Treatment Court, and the Becker-White Earth County DWI Court.
But because of the low number of veterans court registrations, it was merged with the drug court, Thilmony said. “We are now seen as one treatment court with two streams – drugs and veterans,” she said.
Becker County District Judge Gretchen Thilmony (Photo by Tribune)
Specialized courts are flexible problem-solving programs for non-violent offenders with alcohol and drug problems. One of the secrets to their success is close collaboration between judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, healthcare providers, probation officers, law enforcement and others – including education experts. and in vocational training and community leaders.
The treatment court involves ongoing treatment for chemical dependence, frequent drug testing, and regular mandatory court registrations.
By working together, the judge is able to closely monitor a participant’s progress towards sobriety and recovery, and the court has a range of tools to help defendants move in the right direction, including “Immediate sanctions and incentives to promote behavior change. , According to the county’s website.
During the pandemic, Zoom online meetings were used instead of in-person meetings, and some elements of this remote strategy have worked so well that they will likely become a permanent part of the Treatment Tribunal.
Having all of the defendants at the same time for Zoom meetings works well, Thilmony said. “Participants help each other the same way they do in person,” she said.
The treatment court graduation ceremonies held at Zoom allowed friends and family from afar to participate, which was a definite advantage for the graduates, she added.
“One time we had so many people on screen that we had to have a few screens, you couldn’t see everyone,” Thilmony said. The ability for people to attend graduation through Zoom will likely be built into future events, which will be a hybrid of in-person and Zoom attendance, she said.
Since its launch in 2007, 48 participants have been released and 104 have successfully graduated from the Becker-Clay Drug Court program, Thilmony said. “Of those 104 people, all of them have jobs, have their driver’s licenses, and have been sober and sober for at least a year,” she said.
There are currently 23 participants in the Becker County Treatment Court (20 to 27 participants is the average at any given time), which includes the combined participants from the Drug Court and Veterans Court.
The program has a recidivism rate of 21% among graduates, a percentage that most treatment centers would like to achieve. The national recidivism rate for drug offenders outside the drug court is around 50% after five years and 60% after 10 years, according to Don Kautzmann, coordinator of the Clay-Becker Treatment Court, who also reported on. to the Becker County Board on May 18. .
Of the 13 veterans who have agreed to participate in the Veterans Review Tribunal since its inception, six have failed and seven have graduated. None of the graduates reoffended, “a 100% success rate in our veterans court, I’m happy to say that,” Kautzmann said.
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs estimates the number of veterans in the state at about 327,000. As of March 1, in Minnesota, 5.6 percent of those incarcerated or jailed were veterans, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The figure was around 8% nationally.
Support for the Becker County and Clay County Treatment Court was instrumental in securing grants, Kautzmann told commissioners.
“The support from Becker County Council has been invaluable, not only with the funding, but also with the grant applications,” he added. “You were the only one with the support of your counties, which is why you got the grant – so the county’s support was crucial to the success of the program,” Kautzmann said.
Clay-Becker Treatment Court has a budget of approximately $ 200,000 per year, with most funding coming from the state.
Becker County Council Chairman Barry Nelson noted that Clay County funds the treatment court with $ 30,000 per year, while Becker County provides $ 10,000 per year, although the court is heavily used by Becker County District Court. “I wouldn’t mind bumping ours up by $ 5,000,” said Nelson.
“We appreciate your support and support,” Thilmony said. “This is something really important to the members of our community. It’s just the alternative to the district court, where we don’t want them to come back – we want them to be successful in life.
Commissioners like to see people succeed, but the program is also good for the budget. “Keeping them out of jail is very profitable for the county,” Nelson said.
Thilmony is a big part of the treatment court’s success, Becker County District Attorney Brian McDonald said. “Judge Thilmony treats each participant as a person,” he said. “She’s good at empowering them, but the way she talks to each participant says a lot about her.”