Drug Court employee helps offenders get lives back

yukaWorking as a King County Drug Court Case Manager is Yuka Hayashi’s dream job.

“I am so happy that I’m here,” Hayashi said. “It’s such an opportunity to work for a program that helps so many people. There are people who walk in to the program that are so broken down. They have no family, no home, their health is bad— they have nothing. We have the opportunity to give them all these resources and I see people’s lives change.”

Hayashi works with defendants enrolled in the King County Drug Diversion Court, where she provides participants information about the program and assists them throughout the process. She also is the go-between with the drug treatment agency and the Drug Court judges in reporting participant compliance.

“We have an open door policy. You don’t have to make an appointment. I answer a lot of questions and provide a lot of information. I help people navigate the program and get them organized so they cannot feel so alone in this process,” Hayashi said.

The King County Drug Diversion Court, which falls under the Department of Judicial Administration, was the 12th of its kind in the U.S. and started in 1994. Since then, the program has graduated 1,800 people.

“We have a pretty good success rate. Probably more than half make it to graduation. When people graduate, their pending felony charge is dismissed.”

The minimum 11-month, four-phase program is rigorous and holds participants accountable for their sobriety. Oftentimes it takes participants longer than 11 months to complete.

To qualify for the program, a participant’s case first has to be approved by a prosecuting attorney and not involve certain types of felonies. Most often, people with violent offences are not allowed to participate. If they pass the criteria and decide to participate in the program, the drug court then arraigns them. Those who go through the program waive their right to a jury, so if they cannot complete the program, the judge will look at the police report and decide their sentence.

In the program, people are required to meet with a drug court judge once every two weeks, go to chemical dependency treatment three times a week and are randomly drug tested twice a week. The County contracts with an agency called Therapeutic Health Services, a treatment facility that provides both chemical dependency treatment as well as mental health treatment.

“The program covers the cost of treatment. All the urinalysis, everything. It’s expensive, but we do save taxpayers a lot of money by not sending nonviolent offenders to prison,” Hayashi said.

But Hayashi says there is more to Drug Court than just treatment.

“We’re a wraparound program so we’re not just about drug and alcohol treatment. We’re trying to get people counseling, we have a housing program so we can guarantee housing, we help them get employment and education opportunities and we provide transportation,” Hayashi said.

In the later phases of the program, there is a requirement to either be employed part time or full time, in school part time or full time, or doing 19 hours of community service a week.

“They meet with our outreach specialist who is also a case manager, who assists in needs other than chemical dependency…She works with them to make what we call an empowerment plan where our participants decide what they’d like to engage in, and implements that,” Hayashi said.

Hayashi said it’s the people and the breadth of resources available that makes her love her job.

“I definitely want to be here for a long time. I cannot see myself doing anything else,” Hayashi said. “Our program wants to see people get well. It’s exciting to work with people with that vision.”

One Comment on “Drug Court employee helps offenders get lives back

  1. I love this program . Drug court saves lives and something some people care about… money ! Yuka is an example of a person taking the structure of Drug Court and using it to help addicted people. King County is lucky to have Yuka here !