MOUNT VERNON — A drug court is a learning process.
With Knox County Common Pleas Judge Richard Wetzel and his staff beginning drug court for felony-level offenders in 2019, Mount Vernon Municipal Court Judge John Thatcher can share more than a few “lessons learned.”
Thatcher established the municipal drug court in 2016. He set it up to receive a maximum of 24 participants, and barred participants in the first phase from working, to better focus on their recovery.
Over the last 24 months, a lot has changed.
Prohibiting employment in phase one was impracticable because participants still have bills to pay. The court can order someone to stop working if the job is getting in the way of recovery, however, and the original requirement from phase two that participants seek work is still in force.
The demand for treatment has gone past the original maximum number of participants. This has prompted raising the maximum to 40, Thatcher said.
Representatives of children’s services have been added to treatment team meetings. Many participants have open cases with children’s services, and adding them to the treatment team has motivated participants to comply with drug court in order to be reunited with their kids.
Phase one has picked up an introductory period in which drug court applicants observe a month of drug court hearings. This gives the drug court applicant a better understanding of what will be expected of them when they are accepted to phase one.
Before moving on to phase two, participants must be sober for 60 consecutive days. Thatcher said the court is now quicker to move participants stuck in phase one into inpatient treatment.
Thatcher said he believes there is a need for a drug court in common pleas.
“I’m excited about this new drug court and I am looking forward to our drug courts working together,” Thatcher said.