Grand County has begun paying the cost of a tracker position to allow the drug court program to continue.
Four Corners Community Behavioral Health stopped paying the expense at the end of March, Grand County Council chairman Gene Ciarus said during the council’s April 5 workshop. Four Corners is continuing to pay for supplies related to the program, he said.
Karen Dolan, Four Corners executive director, said the decision was prompted by a decline in federal funding.
“Initially, a federal grant covered everything,” she said. “Funding has been reduced over the years.”
The tracker is responsible for visiting the homes of people sentenced by drug court to make sure they are following the requirements to have a stable home, that they are working or attending school, and are not using drugs or alcohol, according to information from Grand County Sheriff Steve White.
He said the Sheriff’s Office budget has enough money to continue funding the position for the rest of the year.
Ciarus said the county must come up with about $100,000 for the tracker to keep the program going throughout 2014.
Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said state law requires drug courts to have a tracker. “Without a tracker, drug court is dead,” he said.
Council members did not vote formally during the meeting to fund the position. Ciarus said that must be done during a regularly scheduled council meeting.
However, council members and White expressed support for the program. White said he was initially skeptical about it, but has seen it work over the years.
He wrote in a report to Grand County Council Administrator Ruth Dillon that those going through drug court “are held accountable for their actions and required to complete the program successfully. They are required to get substance abuse training to understand and change their addictive behaviors.
“While in drug court they are not using, stealing or selling illegal substances. They are given the skills to obtain and keep a stable income [and] a stable healthy home.”
Council member Jim Nyland said it would be more costly to keep an inmate in prison, and prison would not provide needed treatment. Fitzgerald said it costs about $40,000 annually to keep an inmate in prison in Utah.
He said he favors putting the tracker position under the sheriff’s control permanently.
“A lot of counties have already been funding the tracker, and we’ve pushed that off,” Fitzgerald said. “Now it’s getting to crunch time.”
Dolan of Four Corners also emphasized the value of drug court, saying, “It’s a really important program.”
Positive independent evaluations confirm the effectiveness of drug court to lower recidivism rates in Utah, according to the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Graduates of the program consistently have lower recidivism rates than non-drug court comparison groups, the division said in a report.
Drug courts also reduce costs, the division added. More than 2,000 Utahns received treatment through drug courts in fiscal year 2012 with 67 percent showing decreased criminal involvement during the year, according to the division.
“Drug courts offer drug dependent participants intensive court-supervised drug treatment as an alternative to jail or prison,” the division wrote in its report. “This is accomplished through the coordinated effort of the judiciary, prosecution, legal defense, probation, law enforcement, social services, and the treatment community.
“Intensive services are provided to individuals identified as high risk for recidivism and in high need of substance abuse treatment services. Successful completion of drug court can result in dropped charges, vacated or reduced sentences, or rescinded probation in the case of felony drug courts, and familial reunification in the case of family drug courts.”