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$400,000 grant for Schuylkill drug court

A $400,000 federal grant will help Schuylkill County bolster its drug treatment court.

The Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant, procured by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, will be used to hire more staff to help with drug rehabilitation, and allow the county to accept more drug court participants.

Goodman has estimated that 70 to 80 percent of offenders in the county are addicted to drugs.

There are currently 35 people in the intensive, 14-month drug court program, said Judge James P. Goodman.

Schuylkill began the program in January. Goodman presides over it.

The county has to provide a one-third match for the three-year grant, he said.

The money will pay for wages and benefits for a full-time person for the Adult Probation, and part-time staff to work with the district attorney, a treatment coordinator for the Drug & Alcohol program, and public defender’s office.

The district attorney and public defender’s office will dedicate their part-time person to drug court work, Goodman said.

The grant also will pay for training and drug testing supplies.

“Participants are tested several times a week, and this will help pay for that,” he said.

Earlier this year, Casey met with county commissioners and visited a drug-treatment center. He then asked Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions to support the county’s application for funding to hire more staff for an adult drug treatment court.

“Our towns, neighborhoods, and counties need more assistance in fighting the heroin epidemic plaguing our commonwealth and I was able to see that firsthand in my visit to Schuylkill County earlier this year. Although this will not be a quick fix, my hope is that this $400,000 in federal funding will ease some of the large burden this county is strapped with and create jobs to assist more people in finding the help they so desperately need,” Casey said.

Drug courts are proven effective.

Over the past three decades, hundreds of evaluations of drug courts have been conducted that have demonstrated their effectiveness, as well as five meta-analyses of study findings, making drug courts one of the most rigorously tested and evaluated programs in the criminal justice field, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Those enrolled in drug court must be nonviolent, addicted offenders who are motivated to turn their lives around.

Offenders must plead guilty to be accepted into the drug court. If they successfully complete the program, their charges will be dismissed.

Offenders meet weekly with Goodman and a probation officer, and are heavily involved in treatment and regular drug testing.

To be successful, offenders must stay off drugs, meet with their treatment providers, work or perform community service, participate join a support group, obey the law, and meet other requirements.

The program is divided into five phases, and includes a one-year aftercare program.