By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Drug and sobriety courts have a successful impact and change lives, 23rd District Court Judge Geno Salomone told city officials and the city council during a Nov. 19 study session.
Now in its 14th year, it has gone from having 25 participants in the program to more than 80, Salomone said, which he said is a direct response to the heroin epidemic.
“We handle drug addicts, we handle alcohol addicts and we have a success rate of 71 percent,” Salomone said. “The reason I bring that to your attention is that throughout the state, the average success rate for just alcoholism is 75 percent in sobriety court. Heroin addiction is much, much more difficult to deal with; it is a number we are proud of and the program is working and is changing lives.”
Salomone said the state reported that the four-year recidivism rate is only 2 percent.
“That means 98 percent of these people who have been in the criminal justice system their entire life, four years after graduating are no longer in the criminal justice system,” he said. “It has an impact on the community and it has an impact on their family members. It is definitely working.”
Salomone said the city’s contribution to funding the court for the next budget year is $90,000. He said when this program was begun, the city put a $5 surcharge on each parking ticket to fund the sobriety court program.
“If we have an 80 percent collection rate on tickets, we would have made you $135,000 this year,” Salomone said. “This year we had (more than) $150,000, which doesn’t even include the jail savings of $20,000 to $30,000. So in 2018, drug court alone was responsible for bringing in about $180,000 of revenue. This is real dollars, real revenue.”
Salomone said last year city officials discussed the need to find a way to increase the city contribution to the drug court program, because officials knew they could not rely on grant funding in the long term.
Salomone noted that last year 72,000 deaths nationwide were attributed to drug overdoses.
“Treatment courts work, and we have to have them,” Salomone said. “Not only does this help change your community, but the benefit is you make some money out of it. So it is successful, it is a moneymaker in terms of it paying for itself. We don’t want to get rich off it. We want to get people into recovery.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])