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County Drug Court now hurt by new treatment effort

When California voters approved Proposition 36 in 2000, many probably assumed that there was too much emphasis on criminal prosecution of drug offenses and not enough of the kind of treatment and prevention called for in the initiative.

And, in some cases, they might have been right. But Nevada County appears to have been ahead of the curve and, oddly enough, that’s causing us problems.



Nevada County Drug Court gives drug offenders the opportunity to avoid time behind bars and instead work on kicking their substance abuse problem. Rather than just treating the symptoms of this destructive addiction, this program went after the causes.




Sadly, the program faces uncertainty. There is only six months to go, and the Drug Court is losing clients and losing money because of the state fiscal crunch. Technically, the program has another six months left under a four-year state grant. Taking a longer view, the future remains uncertain.

One of the reasons Drug Court is having a tough go of it these days is the aforementioned Proposition 36, which as many will recall, requires treatment and probation for nonviolent drug offenders convicted of possession. Some of these folks now under the mandates for Proposition 36 would have gone to Drug Court in the old days.

Drug Court offers treatment and, perhaps just as important, consequences for them. Clients faced short jail stints for failing drug tests or violating court rules. Court officials lauded the sanctions as a crucial element in helping drug abusers change their destructive ways. So now drug users under the mandates of Proposition 36 will head into treatment without some of the consequences of the drug court program. It remains to be seen how effective this approach may be.

Fortunately, the folks in Nevada County are still trying to stay ahead of the curve. Drug Court supporters hope they can tap into Proposition 36 funds to sustain the program. That seems to make more sense than just starting a new program from scratch. The plan needs the blessings of the state. We all will be better off if the folks in Sacramento see the wisdom of this approach.


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