After more than a year of discussion, the Centre County commissioners unanimously voted on Thursday morning to approve the implementation of a drug court.
Drug courts are specialized courts that take a public health approach to dealing with severely addicted offenders. The court closely monitors drug court participants through weekly meetings with county criminal justice officials in an effort to break the cycle of addiction and crime.
In support of Pennsylvania counties that are considering implementation of a drug court, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has developed a grant program that can provide up to $75,000 for non-salary related expenses.
Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler signed an AOPC grant application asking for almost $30,000 in funding. Kistler pointed to the county’s recent increase in heroin and opioid-related crimes and deaths as the main reason for the development of the drug court.
“The court has long believed that we have a crisis in our court systems with the heroin and opioids,” Kistler said, “and this is one of the tools that we think will be valuable in helping us to treat people with some kind of therapy, some kind of treatment, rather than simply with incarceration.”
Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem said the drug court is in the early stages of planning, and while the approval of the court is the first step, there is much work to be done.
The court is expected to be up and running by October, but Dershem said there is room for the start date to be moved up. New information and an update on the progress of the court’s implementation is expected in the coming weeks.