Drug court focuses on rehabilitation over jail

Contributed photo
Wade Erickson, probation agent; Hallie Metcalf, probation agent; Mike Geis, Fergus Falls defense attorney; and Mike Schommer, director of probation are all a part of the Otter Tail County Drug Court.

A courtroom is not a place where people expect to find scenes of celebration and tears of joy. Unless, of course, it is treatment court. This May, treatment courts throughout Minnesota will join the nearly 4,000 such programs nationwide in celebrating National Drug Court Month. This year alone, more than 150,000 individuals nationwide who entered the justice system due to addiction will receive lifesaving treatment.

Hallie Metcalf, Probation Agent, stated that the initial screening process for the program will begin this week. The Drug Court program is a 15-month program.

National Drug Court Month is a celebration of the lives restored by treatment court by programs like Otter Tail County’s DWI and Drug Courts. Rather than continue to allow individuals with long histories of addiction and crime to cycle through the justice system at great expense to the public, treatment courts use the leverage of the court to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful. Today, drug courts and DWI courts have proven that a combination of accountability and compassion saves lives while also saving valuable resources and reducing exorbitant criminal justice costs.

Tria Mann, DWI Court Coordinator, reported that the Drug Court program is funded by the support of the county and with a four-year grant from the Office of Justice Programs, an Adult Drug Court Treatment Court Discretionary Grant Program.

Otter Tail County has operated a DWI Treatment Court since 2008. DWI Court is a program in which offenders convicted of driving, while intoxicated (DWI) choose to participate to reduce jail time and receive lifesaving treatment. The Otter Tail County Drug Court program will also focus on chemical dependency treatment and accountability, while giving participants a chance to repair their lives, reconnect with their families and find long-term recovery.

A diverse team, comprised of a judge, coordinator, Minnesota Department of Corrections, probation, attorney’s office, human services, sheriff’s department, Fergus Falls Police Department, Nystrom and Associates, Lake Region Healthcare, Lakeland Mental Health Center and a public defender, who facilitate the Otter Tail County Drug Court program.

The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners signed a resolution declaring May 2022 “National Drug Court Month.” 

“Research shows that drug courts are recognized in changing lives. Thank you for your work,” said Otter Tail County Commissioner Kurt Mortenson.

For more information, please contact Tria Mann at tria.mann@courts.state.mn.us or visit the Otter Tail County Probation webpage at www.ottertailcountymn.us/probation/