New Castle News

Closer Look

November 5, 2013

Grant buys county new drug court position

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County’s Drug Court will have a new staff member helping supervise defendants who go through the rehabilitation program.

At a special meeting Monday, the county salary board unanimously created a full-time adult probation officer exclusively for the drug program, at a base salary of $34,933 with full benefits.

The position is to be funded with a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. If the grant runs out, the position will be eliminated, according to commissioner chairman Dan Vogler, who also heads the salary board.

The board includes the three commissioners, Controller David Gettings and any elected row officer who has a matter for a vote before the board. In this instance, that member was President Judge Dominick Motto, who also presides over the drug court.

Lawrence County’s drug court was started in February 2012 to help nonviolent offenders who are hooked on drugs regain their dignity and rebuild their lives.

The program involves close monitoring, supervision and drug testing of the participants, rewards for good behavior and punishment for bad behavior, which can include a night or two in jail. It also requires rehabilitation and participation in community recovery programs.

The program excludes violent offenders, drug dealers and sexual felons.

According to Motto, the program received one grant about eight months ago for $122,500 from the state’s Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, through the Stoughton Farms foundation. That money was used to elevate an adult probation officer in the program to full-time treatment coordinator, because of the time she spends in drug court.

The second part of the grant was for $122,500.

Of that, 40 percent is to be used for salary for the new position and the rest for treatment purposes, Motto explained.

“We were very excited to get this grant,” he said. “It shows that the (commission) has confidence in our program and allows us to expand it.”

He said the new job will involve monitoring the participants, drug testing them and ensuring compliance with treatment, doing curfew checks and having regular meetings with them.

Motto said the position will be posted and advertised and candidates will be interviewed. He hopes to have it filled in about a month.

Each drug court program averages 10 enrollees, Motto said, adding, that since its inception, “We’ve had four people graduate.”

“A few people have washed out and haven’t made it but those usually leave the program early on,” he said, adding, “The great majority have been able to stay in it.”

He said the county’s success rate of keeping people enrolled is about 70 percent.

“When we started, we were told if we could get 40 to 50 percent it’s good,” he said. “We’re well above the average.”

Of the program, he said, “I’m thrilled with it. The four who have graduated are doing so well. It’s heartwarming to see where they were when they started and now see them leading normal happy lives. It’s a great thing.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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