5/23/2013 9:49:00 PM Drug Court program helps addicts get clean
By Patti Weaver Journal Correspondent
Payne County Drug Court -- the oldest drug court for adults in Oklahoma -- helps addicts get clean and become responsible while saving taxpayers money by keeping people out of prison, according to interim executive director Noel Bagwell.
"I think any drug is hard to get sober from. They're fighting addiction," noted Bagwell, 48, of Cushing, who spent 20 years in law enforcement including serving as sheriff of Payne County before being appointed to his post two and one-half years ago.
"The majority of the people in the program are serious," even though Payne County Drug Court is intensive, takes an average of 13 and one-half months, and costs the participants $1,980, Bagwell said.
"They are sentenced by a judge to Drug Court by agreement (of the prosecutor and defense attorney) in lieu of going to prison.
"Our cost to send one person through Drug Court is $5,288 for a year including treatment, testing and counseling. One year in prison costs $19,000 per person.
"What we see when you come to Drug Court is you don't want to be there -- the judge told you you had to do this.
"Probably within 30 days, we'll begin to see that attitude melt. Usually after three to four months, you'll begin to see attitudes change.
"You'll see them want to begin to do things right, begin to see them be accountable, be responsible.
"Even after they get out, it's an uphill battle," noted Bagwell, who has served on the Payne County Drug Court Board of Directors since 1999 when it became a non-profit organization, two years after Drug Court began.
"Drug Court is a five phase intensive out-patient substance abuse treatment program," providing counseling, support services, and supervision for criminal defendants, Bagwell said.
Participants are subject to random drug testing throughout the program -- which takes a minimum of one year, he said.
"We do an entry hair follicle test that tells us what drugs you've used in the past 90 to 120 days. We get an accurate reading from your hair.
"We locally test for 10 different drugs on a urine analysis (UA). That specimen goes on to a lab in California where results are confirmed by a re-test," which is more detailed.
"We also test randomly for synthetic drugs such as K2, spice, bath salts," Bagwell said.
"Every Drug Court client has to call this phone number every day of the year to learn if they're being randomly called for a drug test.
"If they have a positive UA test, there are sanctions, also if they don't come to group counseling, do not meet the requirements.
"Failure can result in sanctions from the Drug Court judge. It could be additional community service, jail for a period of days," Bagwell said.
"If you fail to report for a drug test, there is an automatic three-day jail sanction, no excuses. If you get a new charge, you're terminated from Drug Court.
"If you bring in someone else's urine, it's automatic termination -- and you go to jail" on a judge's order, Bagwell said. The Payne County District Attorney's Office can file an application to revoke probation for an individual -- who can then be sentenced to prison, Bagwell said.
Needless to say, there are plenty of incentives for a Drug Court client to successfully complete the program, which costs participants, most of whom are employed, $150 per month for 12 months, as well as entry and exit hair follicle tests.
"Payne County Drug Court is the only program in Oklahoma under one roof -- treatment, administrative, drug testing, classes and therapy," all at 608 W. Highpoint Drive in Stillwater, Bagwell said.
"We have two counselors, one case management person, a receptionist and myself," currently serving 80 people in Payne County Drug Court, Bagwell said.
"We are certified through the Department of Mental Health Substance Abuse treatment services. We just received a three-year certification with special distinction from the state - - the highest certification.
"In Drug Court, the majority are males, age 21 to 45. We have some 60-plus age people. They have a wide variety of drugs -- meth, alcohol, prescription pills.
"The drug of choice for 2011-2012 was alcohol, even though their charges may be meth or prescription pills. They fi ll out a very extensive questionnaire," Bagwell noted.
"Of our clients, 28.6 percent are married, 36.7 percent never married, 14.3 percent divorced and 20.4 percent are separated.
"Typically a client calls in daily about drug testing, attends group sessions once or twice a week and selfhelp groups once a week such as A.A. and N.A.," in addition to appearing in court every week for six months, Bagwell said.
A client's progress is assessed by Drug Court Judge Phillip Corley "based on information from the Drug Court team composed of counselors, law enforcement, the defense attorney, the prosecutor and a mental health representative," Bagwell said.
"Drug Court is funded by contracts we have with the state Department of Mental Health and the state Department of Corrections.
"They pay for treatment, therapy sessions, assessment, classes, individual counseling and case management services.
"We receive money for some of our juvenile programs from the Stillwater United Way. We have a scaled-down program for juveniles that lasts for three months," Bagwell noted.
In addition to Drug Court, "We have several businesses that we do drug tests for. Parents bring children and say do a drug test. In child custody cases, we do drug tests if ordered by the court. We do drug testing for DHS cases" -- all for a fee, Bagwell said.
"To graduate from Drug Court, one of the final requirements, a client must come up with a community project that must be 20 hours at a minimum that could be of benefit to a non-profit, a town or a city.
"Last year we had some clients do home repairs for disabled senior citizens. We've had several do work at the Humane Society. We have a married couple right now that are going to rebuild a covered area at a park.
"So they invest back into the community," Bagwell noted.
"Drug Courts work economically. They save money by keeping people out of prison," as well as reducing property crimes and saving taxpayers from drug-related medical fees, Bagwell said.
"I think Drug Court makes a big difference in their lives. It gives them the potential to be productive members of the community.
"When they get through the program, they've got the tools to move forward," Bagwell said.
In America, there are more than 2,700 drug courts, Bagwell said.
In Oklahoma, 73 out of our 77 counties have drug courts.
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals says that the national average for re-offenders is 25 percent, Bagwell noted.