Diverting Drug Offenders into Treatment Programs

The State of Minnesota is working to divert drug offenders from prison and into drug treatment programs | Drug Court |  It’s currently estimated that 8% of Minnesotans use illicit or illegal drugs at least once per month. Marijuana, opioids, and stimulates are the most commonly consumed substances by drug offenders in the state.

Opioids Causing Concern

According to the CDC, approximately 189,000 Americans died from 2000-2014 following consumption of prescription opioids. Often prescribed for the management of pain following surgery or as part of a treatment plan for long-term care, these drugs are highly addictive. Patients consuming these drugs as part of their treatment regimen frequently develop addictions that can devastate their lives and lead to criminal entanglements.

While physicians are working to ease the over prescription of opioid medications, the State of Minnesota is working with medical providers to enhance treatment options for those who have become addicted. Among these, the Chronic Opioid Analgesic Therapy (COAT) Program has generated positive results. The program helps patients gradually wean themselves from the opioids they crave.

Drug Courts Give Hope

Courts in Minnesota are expanding their efforts to create options for drug offenders to pay their fines, kick their addictions, and make restitution to their victims. To this end, the state is diverting more drug offenders into treatment programs that help offenders get clean and get back on track.

These “drug courts” are being renamed the “Treatment Court Initiative,” whose goal is to help ease the burden on the state’s prison system while giving offenders the skills, education, and treatment they require.

The enhancement of drug treatment programs and alternative sentencing is crucial at the present time. In 2015, there were 3,902 narcotic related incidents reported in the state. These include overdoses, violent crimes, property theft, etc. As such, Minnesota has been designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) by the federal government. Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka, and Washington counties are the areas of greatest concern. As a result of the designation, the region will receive federal funding for both law enforcement and drug treatment.

Treatment isn’t “Get Out of Jail Free”

When a client’s Minnesota lawyer is able to enroll their client in a drug treatment program, that doesn’t mean the client is “off the hook.” Indeed, patients within these programs are required to complete rigorous drug testing schedules, treatment classes, and make restitution to the victims of their crimes. These programs can vary in length based on the judges discretion.

In Southern Minnesota Drug Court typically is the what we call the “last, best option” what this means is that if a person is facing prison (not local county jail) time this is often the court of last resort, where the Court will let you not go to prison if you can go to weekly Drug Court meetings, which includes doing drug tests (called UA’s) and attending treatment and getting good reports from the counselor.

The downside is that if the person fails, that is uses or quits treatment they often go straight to prison instead of given a second chance, so it’s critically important that the person is serious about succeeding in beating their addiction.

Often I hear questions such as “can anyone get into drug court?” The short answer is no, they can’t.  The prosecutor must agree for the defendant to enter drug court.

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