MERCER – The Mercer County Treatment Court is receiving a financial boost.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts will disburse a $38,482 implementation grant this month for the treatment court, which is a post-sentence program for people with substance abuse issues.
County Senior Judge John Reed, who supervises the treatment court, said the money would be used for weekly drug testing, incentives and transporting participants to bi-weekly court sessions. He explained such rewards as a $10 gas card or two movie theater tickets are motivational tools.
“They get so excited,” Reed said. “They have something tangible recognizing their achievement.”
He said the grant money also would be used to pay participants’ transportation costs, including public-transit fees or gas money.
Depending on an individual’s criminal history and severity of the violation leading to the sentencing, those on parole or probation may be eligible for the program, which could result in a reduction or elimination of the remaining sentence. Reed said the county district attorney determines whether a person qualifies.
The 15-month program is extended if a person misses any treatment court sessions, where participants report on their recovery progress.
Reed cited one example of an interrupted stint would be if a participant relapses, entering a residential treatment facility for 28 days. He said other reasons, such as employment, can cause a person to miss sessions.
“They have to make it up,” Reed said.
Treatment Court has been running since January. With input from a team of treatment professionals in the criminal justice and therapeutic fields, Reed recognizes participants’s achievements and setbacks.
“The first 12 months are very intense,” he said.
According to Reed, the frequency of the drug testing eventually decreases from multiple times a week if there are no problems.
In addition to drug testing and court sessions, participants engage in therapy and mental health sessions, complete workbook assignments, enrollment in a recovery program and performing community service.
For the final three months, there is no drug testing or assignments. Reed said the participants are just required to check in regularly.
Nearly 10 people are in the program. The program can handle up to 40 participants.
Reed said the name of Treatment Court does not include the words “drug” or “substance abuse” for a reason.
“They’re going to stigmatize people,” he said.
For the same purpose, participants are not called defendants or offenders.
The program was launched with a $166,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency upon the request of the Mercer County Criminal Justice Advisory Board.
The PCCD grant covered equipment and supply purchases as well as the salaries of two coordinators.
Reed said there was a vital need for a treatment court in the county.
“We have such a terrible drug problem here,” he said.
According to Reed, substance abuse is often tied to mental health issues.
“It’s very difficult to separate the two,” he said.