Drug, veterans courts taking smarter approach

Drug, veterans courts taking smarter approach

Indiana’s top judge said recently that it’s time for an attitude change about substance-use disorder. “We were tough on drugs, but now we need to be smart. It’s more important to be smart,” said Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush. “Addiction is a disease. I truly believe addiction is a disease.” Rush spoke in Bloomington at the third annual South Central Opioid Summit. She co-chairs the National Judicial Opioid Task Force, created in 2017. Rush said increases since 2016 in “problem-solving courts” — from 81 to 112 — reflect the progress Indiana is making. Indiana’s four northeast-corner counties are playing a big part in that progress. Noble and LaGrange counties operate drug courts that aim toward recovery and encouragement, rather than punishment. Noble and DeKalb counties offer veterans courts that focus on helping military veterans who become involved in the criminal justice system. Noble County served as a pioneer, starting its drug court in 2006 and its veterans court in 2016. On consecutive days in late August, the LaGrange County Drug Court and DeKalb County Veterans Court celebrated their first graduates with special ceremonies. LaGrange County Superior Court Judge Lisa Bowen-Slaven began working on the county’s drug court four years ago. It aims to help nonviolent offenders who have histories of drug and alcohol addictions. It takes at least two years to graduate from LaGrange County’s program. Along the way, participants undergo more than 100 drug screens, paying a fee for each test. They must have or find a job to be in the program and pay a monthly drug court fee. At the ceremony, graduates described how the drug court’s strict program, rigorous testing and nearly constant oversight helped them finally take control of their addictions and their lives. Gradaute Eli Yutzy received a special award for […]

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