With a team of at least six professionals to help them, recovering drug addicts need one more thing to be contributing members of society. They need steady jobs.
Ms Catherine Chesnut, coordinator for the Drug Rehabilitation Court, is constantly looking for employment opportunities for court clients.
‘We need to change the mindset of business people towards hiring someone with a history of drug abuse,’ she said.
People in the DRC programme know they are being monitored by the court, so they are motivated to come to work every day and come on time, Ms Chesnut said.
Employment is just one aspect of a client’s life that the programme is concerned with. ‘We are looking at the whole life of the individual – not just stopping drug use,’ she explained.
‘When you as an employer give a chance to someone in the Drug Rehabilitation Court programme, you are not alone in working with that person. You have a team monitoring that person. If there is a problem, more than likely we are going to address it before it becomes a problem in the workplace.’
DRC clients have a network of support to help them through their rehab: there are counsellors, probation officers, professionals from Children and Family Services and attorneys who meet with the magistrate in pre-court conferences to discuss each DRC participant. Other treatment providers are called on as needed.
Along with counselling, group meetings, mandatory reporting and court attendance, DRC clients are required to provide a specimen of urine for drug testing at any time.
‘The random protocol is designed to provide information regarding the honesty of the person in the programme as to whether he or she has used drugs. A person who is dishonest cannot remain in the programme,’ Ms Chesnut said.
DRC clients are not people with a history of violence nor are they drug suppliers, she emphasised. Apart from drug abuse, their offending may include theft or burglary committed to support their habit. They must be prepared to plead guilty to charges against them.
Applicants are carefully screened to see if they are eligible. They then go through a 30-day assessment period to see if they are suitable.
Acceptance into the prescribed treatment programme means they are willing to make a change and participate fully.
The goal of the DRC is for the individual to make the move from being non-productive and law-breaking to being law-abiding, functioning and able to provide for self and family.
‘Those whose drug use has been enabled by family or friends have to become responsible,’ Ms Chesnut said. Seemingly small steps make this possible: maintaining appointments, self-reporting of relapses, initiating contact with treatment providers.
Specific goals are set for each client, but include sobriety, appropriate housing accommodation, employment or schooling or volunteer work.
Graduation from the programme is followed by sentencing by the court for the individual’s offence or offences.
Successful clients will usually receive a non-custodial sentence. Expulsion from the programme means a return to the regular courts. A positive disposal of their case is therefore another motivating factor for DRC participants.
Ms Chesnut hopes to speak at a Chamber o9f Commerce function and believes that getting information to contractors would be especially beneficial.
‘Anybody who wants to learn more about the Drug Rehab Court should contact me immediately at 949-4296. I will speak anywhere with any group that wants to understand the programme,’ Ms Chesnut said.