The Response - 28

in the community

Drug Treatment Court
by Judge M. Theresa Johnson, Court of Common Pleas, County of Berks

The mission of the Berks County Drug Treatment Court

is to integrate substance abuse treatment with the justice system for the
promotion of public safety, individual responsibility, and reduction of drug/
alcohol related recidivism. Further, the Berks County Drug Treatment Court
provides a judicially supervised regimen of individualized treatment and
intensive probation/parole supervision to the chemically-involved offender
through a coordinated interdisciplinary approach that treats the addiction
while protecting public safety.


he Treatment Court team is comprised of the Berks County
Court of Common Pleas, Adult Probation and Parole, District
Attorney's Office, Public Defender's Office, Pre-trial Services,
Treatment Access Services, Council on Chemical Abuse, Pennsylvania
Counseling Center, Berks Counseling Center, New Directions and the
YMCA. The team meets bi-weekly to review the applications. Offenders
are automatically excluded from the program if they have a present or
past history of violence, possess or use a weapon in the commission
of any offense or have a present or past conviction for felony offenses.
An applicant must meet with an intake evaluator to complete the
Department of Drug and Alcohol Program Adult Assessment Tool
in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Client Placement Criteria to
determine the applicant's criteria for levels of treatment.

program approximately two years after that morning she was brought
to court by the Sheriff's Office. She is now drug free, employed, and
living on her own, supporting herself and has reunited with her family.

	 In addition, the team meets on a bi-weekly basis prior to court to
discuss participants' treatment plans, goals and issues. Participants
are required to appear in court bi-weekly during the beginning
of participation and gradually decrease to once a month prior to
graduation. In addition they meet separately with their case manager
and probation officer.

	 Treatment Court is NOT the easy way out. In fact, participants
have more requirements than if they simply chose to plead guilty.
The average participant is in treatment court for 18-24 months prior
to graduation with a long period of supervision following. However,
for some participants this is their first involvement with the Criminal
Justice System and their successful completion can result in a clean
record. Since January 2016, 76 participants have been accepted into
Drug Treatment Court, 18 individuals have been discharged for noncompliance, and 35 have successfully graduated. The remainder of
the individuals are still actively participating. Mental Health Court
has admitted 48 participants, discharged 10 for noncompliance
and graduated 5. DUI Court has admitted 193, discharged 6 for
noncompliance and graduated 31. Veterans Court has admitted 19,
discharged 2 for violations and graduated 6.

	 I first became involved in treatment court in the spring of 2016.
One of my first memories of treatment court was a 21-year-old
woman brought into court by the Berks County Sherriff's Office on
a bench warrant for failure to appear for a court hearing. She was
clearly under the influence of drugs and had the appearance of not
showering or eating for days. She was crying and begging me to not
send her to jail. I sent her to jail that evening, not for punishment,
but for her safety. A short time later she was released and entered into
Treatment Court. The early stages of treatment court were not easy
for her and she relapsed several times during the first few months. She
finally trusted the process and agreed that structured housing at EDI
was in her best interest. Structured housing, combined with intensive
therapy and a lot of hard work on her part and dedication by the team
members, resulted in one of the many success stories we have seen.
Seven months after entering into the program she didn't look back.
She has continued to move forward, successfully graduating from the

the response // summer/fall 2018

	 Over the past two years, participants have included former
athletes who became addicted to pain medication following injury
and/or surgery and then turned to heroin as a cheaper option, and
professionals who suffered a work related injury and became addicted
to pain medication and likewise turned to heroin. Young adults who
now regret dropping out of high school find themselves with no
direction. Adults who have finally decided that going in and out of
prison is no longer the life they want to lead but don't know how to
stop the cycle.

	 The goal of Treatment Court is to identify the underlying reason
for the drug use and assist the individual in addressing alternative
ways to cope. Prior to entry all participants are evaluated to
determine their level of care. Treatment plans may include detox
followed by inpatient treatment, structured housing, intensive
outpatient and/or individual counseling. Once stable, participants
are directed towards resources within the community to assist them
with completing their education, employment and healthier hobbies.


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