Drug treatment courts are an innovative approach to dealing with substance abuse and its consequences in communities. Drug court programs have proven to be effective for increasing treatment participation and decreasing criminal recidivism. In 2006, Washington County expanded their existing drug treatment program to include women with children. The Washington County Women and their Children Drug Treatment Court (WCWCDTC) serves parents who use methamphetamine and whose children have been removed, or are at risk of being removed, from their home as a result of criminal activity and child neglect. This report is a process evaluation for the second year (2007-2008) of the WCWCDTC. As drug court programs expand and target different populations, it is critical to ensure that the expansions continue to follow best practices and standards.
Primary Research Question
Does the WCWCDTC follow national drug court best practices and standards? What were the lessons learned, challenges, and innovations for the WCWCDTC in its second year of operation?
Information for this process evaluation came from several sources, including observations of court hearings and team meetings, key stakeholder interviews, program manuals, a key stakeholder survey, and the program database.
Researchers used the Ten Key Components of Drug Courts (as described by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals in 1997) as a framework to assess the WCWCDTC. Outlined below are the Ten Components and the program’s fidelity to those standards.
Key Component #1: Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.
- The WCWCDTC has an integrated treatment and judicial team that works well together and includes a comprehensive list of agency representatives. Compliance to this component was ranked at 92.86%.
Key Component #2: Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights.
- Prosecution and defense counsel are included as part of the drug court team; they work collaboratively and have a strong commitment to a non-adversarial approach. Compliance to this key component was rated at 80.8% in the first year and 91.64% in the second year.
Key Component #3: Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program.
- Compliance with this key component rose from 82.4% in the first year to 88.67% in year two, suggesting that team members feel that the referral and program entry process has become somewhat more efficient.
Key Component #4: Drug courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug, and other related treatment and rehabilitation services.
- Cascadia Behavioral HealthCare is the sole treatment provider for all participants of the WCWCDTC. Participants are required to attend individual recovery treatment sessions weekly and additional therapy for trauma related issues. Compliance to this key component was rated at 95%.
Key Component #5: Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.
- Research on drug courts in California found that drug testing that occurs randomly, at least three times per week, is the most effective model. The number of urinalyses (UA) administered by the WCWCDTC is comparable to most drug courts nationally and compliance was rated at 93.6%.
Key Component #6: A coordinated strategy governs drug court responses to participants’ compliance.
- The team reported that each member gives input on what the response should be to participant behavior. They discuss the matter at weekly team meetings until they come to a consensus. Compliance scores for this component went up 6% in this year’s evaluation.
Key Component #7: Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential.
- Participants are required to be in court consistent with national standards. Drug Court sessions are required once per week in Phase I, three times a month in Phase II, twice a month in Phase III and once a month in Phase IV. Compliance was 93.5%.
Key Component #8: Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.
- This drug court uses the Oregon Treatment Court Management System (OTCMS) to track program progress. Program policy issues are discussed at policy meetings and annual retreats. Team members rated compliance to this key component at 93%.
Key Component #9: Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations.
- This component received the lowest ranking both years, with this year’s score at 66.75%. Since the survey, a representative from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) traveled to Washington County to train the entire team on topics such as sanctions and incentives, working with young adults, drug testing, and roles and responsibilities. In addition to this, the coordinator, district attorney, and women’s probation officer attended the annual NADCP conference in May 2008.
Key Component #10: Forging partnerships among drug courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances drug court program effectiveness.
- WCWCDTC has established numerous relationships with community partners, including transitional housing, housing for women with children, employers and child outreach services. Interviews with team members revealed concerns about sufficient housing resources and especially housing for men with children. Compliance was rated relatively low, 69.23%, and indicates that team members feel that community support and networking could be improved.
The practices of the Washington County Women and Their Children Drug Treatment Court were successfully aligned with national best practices and standards. Areas for improvement include holding more on-going trainings for staff and continual community outreach to gain new program partners. Compliance with national best practices is critical to ongoing success of any drug court program.