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County board asks to revive drug treatment specialty court talks

“Treatment courts are the single most successful intervention in our nation's history for leading people living with substance use and mental health disorders out of the justice system and into lives of recovery and stability." – Minnesota Judicial Branch

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Hubbard County Government Center
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo, March 2020
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Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes reported June 21 that the jail is still full, the majority of incarcerations due to DUI and drug-related arrests.

When asked about average length of stay, Aukes said he did not know because it’s up to a year to get blood test results back from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), “so we don’t know what the sentence is going to be on those people. The BCA needs more lab technicians.”

County commissioner Dan Stacey inquired about any information or thoughts on a drug specialty court in Hubbard County.

According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch (MJB) website (mncourts.gov), “Treatment courts represent a shift in the way courts are handling certain offenders and working with key stakeholders in the justice system. In this approach, the court works closely with prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, social workers and other justice system partners to develop a strategy that will pressure an offender into completing a treatment program and abstaining from repeating the behaviors that brought them to court.”

It continues, “Treatment courts are the single most successful intervention in our nation's history for leading people living with substance use and mental health disorders out of the justice system and into lives of recovery and stability. They improve education, employment, housing, and financial stability; and promote family reunification. Instead of viewing addiction as a moral failing, they view it as a disease. Instead of punishment, they offer treatment. Instead of indifference, they show compassion.”

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MJB explains, “Treatment court strategies include regular appearances before a judge, intensive supervision by a probation officer, frequent drug and alcohol testing that is random and individualized, and using immediate sanctions and incentives to reward program compliance and respond to program non-compliance. Research shows that when these strategies are implemented correctly, treatment courts improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars.”

Of drug treatment courts, Aukes said, “I’m certainly open to it. I don’t know that there’s been any progress made since the last time it’s been discussed with the committee, which has been quite some time ago.”

In May 2019, Marc Bloomquist, who was Department of Corrections (DOC) district supervisor for Hubbard County at the time, reported to the county board that he brought funding for a drug treatment court to the county three times and three times a judge wouldn’t sign off on it.

Bloomquist died of a heart attack unexpectedly in December 2021.

On June 21, Stacey asked Aukes how to get momentum moving again.

Aukes said he’d speak to the new DOC district supervisor, Mark Smith.

County commissioner David De La Hunt commented that he read in Minnesota Court Watch that drug treatment court has lowered recidivism by 30% “in most cases. I think Roseau County is having success with its specialty court. If you could lower recidivism by 30%, that seems like a victory to me – for not only the taxpayer, but the person that needs the help.”

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