Drug Court manager shares personal impact of program
National Recovery Month is an opportunity to learn more about what King County is doing to support people with services that allow them to rebuild their lives after difficult situations. The internationally renowned King County Drug Court Program, started in 1994 and celebrating its 25th anniversary this October, provides multiple resources for people by combining those from the criminal justice system, substance abuse treatment, and other community services providers.
We sat down with Mary Taylor, Drug Court Manager, to learn more about the steady growth and continued success of this amazing program.
“This is a program within the criminal justice system that allows people charged with specific felonies to access treatment and other services to get their lives back together,” said Mary. “We’re bringing people back who may have lost their way.”
The program is important for a variety of reasons. Each person receives a level of supervision and resources to learn new skills, treat mental health and substance use disorders, receive peer support, and set important personal goals. This comprehensive approach helps each participant, as well as their families and the overall community.
“The program attempts to address participants’ needs. We provide extensive wraparound services,” said Mary, who has been involved with the program since 1998, and started with King County in 1988.
She adds how she has enjoyed helping the program grow over time to include 11 county and 2 contract staff and countless community service providers. Mary admits it is challenging work, but that seeing results encourages her and other staff to continue doing it.
“I grew up with parents who owned a restaurant and were constantly expanding it, and planning the next big thing,” she said. “I guess I bring that experience to this role, asking myself ‘How can we improve, what’s the next step?’.”
“Seeing people at the drug court graduation talking about their path and how they feel whole again are the results that motivate me to keep going.”
This personal connection between the participants and drug court staff is one of the many reasons the program has thrived. Mary explains that relationship building is essential to helping people succeed.
“Court participants can establish a relationship with the judge and talk directly to them,” she said. “Participants form relationships with every staff member, including court staff.”
“We have all bought into this work, and care about the program participant as a person and about their success.”
Further explaining how the program can have a profound impact on each person, Mary says that besides treatment for opioid, heroin, or other drug use, the program attempts to addresses the practical needs of every participant. This includes ORCA cards to help people get to and from appointments, one year of recovery-oriented housing, and working with a resource specialist to develop employment skills and identify other opportunities. Each person receives individualized treatment from professionals they may not have been able to access otherwise. If participants in the program are successful in their treatment, then their criminal charges are dismissed. If not, then they are adjudicated on the original charge. As of August 2019, 2,546 people have graduated from the program.
For the region, the program results in reduced crime and prison use. A December 2018 analysis of Washington State Drug Court participation by Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) found crime reductions translated into a net benefit to taxpayers of $9,149 per program participant. Jail bookings were reduced by 49% over the long term for King County Drug Diversion Court (KCDDC) participants, according to the 2018 Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) Annual Report.
To learn more about the program, visit the King County Drug Diversion Court webpage. To read a breakdown of the program and its impact, read this blog post on the King County Superior Court blog titled “King County Drug Diversion Court: By the Numbers.”
Pictured: If successful in Drug Court, participants graduate and charges are dismissed. 2,546 people have graduated from King County Drug Court (as of August 2019).