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Federal grant will help Centre County drug court get ‘off the ground’

Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest will oversee the drug court, which is slated to be fully operational by January.
Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest will oversee the drug court, which is slated to be fully operational by January. Centre Daily Times, file

A federal grant will enable Centre County to implement its drug court by January.

The county board of commissioners at its meeting Tuesday accepted a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, with a match requirement of $133,493.

The grant will support two staff positions specific to the drug court — one in the probation and parole office and the other in the drug and alcohol office, said Cathy Arbogast, assistant administrator for Centre County Drug and Alcohol.

The drug court is “a great endeavor, and I think it’ll be a huge benefit to the community,” said President Judge Pamela Ruest, who will oversee the drug court.

The county’s program will follow evidence- and research-based strategies that are identified for an effective therapeutic court program, Arbogast said.

She said the grant allows the county to not worry about funding for a while and focus on getting the program “off the ground.”

“We have individuals who have really severe substance use disorders,” said Gene Lauri, director of the county’s Criminal Justice Planning Department. “And this is a court program that’s going to try to give them the tools to deal with that and overcome those issues but also hold them accountable.”

The plan is to begin with about two dozen individuals who have substance use disorders, Arbogast said. They’re also specifically identifying individuals who have already been sentenced and are under supervision and are struggling with their addiction in meeting those requirements.

Those people are facing repercussions and jail time as a result, she said.

Offering them the drug court program gives them a therapeutic alternative that can help get them through the challenges they’re experience and back to sober and healthy lifestyle, Arbogast said.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

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