Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2012
Source: Florence Reminder (AZ)
Copyright: Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc. 2012
Author: Daniel Dullum


Pinal County started its Adult Drug Court in Casa Grande three years 
ago. Based on its encouraging success rate, a decision was made to 
expand the program.

A few weeks ago, Adult Drug Court expanded to include a court in 
Florence to service the Florence, Coolidge and San Tan Valley areas.

"We knew the need was here for such a program," Brian Finucane, Adult 
Drug Court supervisor, said. "We decided that we could do another 
such program with existing resources. We didn't apply for a grant or 
any type of funding. We did it with what we already had.

"We saw the need for a similar program in this area," he continued. 
"Everybody got on board in agreement, and here we are."

Drug courts are "problem-solving courts" that operate under a 
specialized model in which judiciary, prosecution, defense, probation 
and treatment work together to help offenders with serious drug abuse 
issues. The goal is to help with the offenders' recovery and become 
productive citizens.

The Adult Drug Court started in Casa Grande in 2009, serving that 
city along with Eloy and a part of Coolidge. Finucane said the CG 
program has 18 graduates, a "better than 50 percent graduation rate."

"From a statistical standpoint, that's what we've hoped for and which 
is pretty close to the national average," Finucane said. "We're also 
doing follow-up on the graduates to see if they're staying out of 
trouble and, hopefully, if they are, it's a result of what they've 
gone through in our program.

"... There's no added funding from the county, or grants or other 
sources. We're doing it on our own," he explained. "None of the court 
officers, the judge, probation officer, prosecutor or defense 
attorney, are solely dedicated to the program. They have other cases.

"So in addition to all of their other duties, they're taking on the 
drug court responsibilities."

Starts with two

The first two participants entered the Florence Adult Drug Court on 
July 17, and Finucane anticipates one more entering the program soon.

"It's pretty much the same, with the same philosophy," Finucane said. 
"It's the same thing we have in Casa Grande, only now it's in a 
different area."

Among the changes for the Florence court, Finucane said, was a new 
judge (Hon. Delia Neal), prosecutor, defense attorney and probation officer.

"The relationship of this team is unique, because they take a 
non-adversarial approach, meaning they work together towards 
achieving the participant's recovery," Finucane said.

Initially, the adult drug court in Florence is capped at 15 
participants, while the court in Casa Grande is capped at 25.

"But everything we do in drug court remains the same," Finucane said. 
"We did, however, scale back with the new program."

Four phases

The program runs for approximately one year. It has four phases, each 
with a number of requirements, including regular court appearances, 
intensive substance abuse treatment, frequent urinalysis testing, 
curfew and community work service.

Phase 1 includes a 30-day in-house residential treatment or an 
intensive outpatient treatment.

Phases 2 and 3 include intensive outpatient treatments, curfew 
guidelines, regular meetings with the probation officer and a 
requirement to stay clean and sober for 45 days (60 days for Phase 3 
and 90 days for Phase 4).

Phase 4 includes a continuation of the requirements for the first 
three phases, including a full payment of all court-ordered charges.

The court also involves a drug addiction treatment specialist that 
helps with both the Florence and Casa Grande programs.

"But we're thinking we'll start off kind of small here, at least in 
the beginning, and see how it goes," Finucane said.

Finucane said participants are referred from the county prosecuting 
attorney's office, who reviews cases.

"When a case comes in and they feel that the case would be 
appropriate for drug court, they're referred to the program for 
screening," he said. "Also, probation officers will refer cases from 
their case load if they feel a person they're supervising can benefit 
from the program.

"We try to identify participants early in the judicial process, so we 
can get them into treatment as soon as possible."

The primary incentive for entering the program is to achieve 
sobriety. When participants successfully complete the program, 
Finucane said, they are usually discharged from probation.

"Escalating sanctions are imposed for program violations, ranging 
from a verbal reprimand from the judge, to incarceration," he added. 
"Incentives are also handed out for good performance."

Makes a difference

An anonymous opponent to the drug court posted a statement online on 
Nov. 8, 2011, calling the program "a total waste of taxpayer money 
and resources."

Finucane disagrees, explaining, "I would tell someone like that to 
come to one of our graduations. It's one of the most emotional things 
I've ever seen in all of my years in probation. They can see the 
impact this program has had on not only the participant, but their 
family and friends.

"I've been in this for 27 years, and seeing these guys make it 
through the program, turning their lives around, getting off drugs, 
and seeing what it does for them, it's amazing. It gives you hope."
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