DSHS - Drug Courts and other Problem-Solving Courts
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Drug Courts and other Problem-Solving Courts

DBHR provides funding for alcohol and drug treatment services for offenders who are under the supervision of the courts.  The court providing supervision can be called “drug court” or “non-drug court.”

A drug court, as described in RCW 2.28.170,  is a court that has special calendars or dockets designed to work with nonviolent offenders to reduce repeat crimes and substance abuse by increasing their likelihood for successful rehabilitation.  This work includes early, continuous, and intense judicially-supervised treatment, mandatory periodic drug testing, and the use of appropriate sanctions and incentives. 

A number of Washington counties have chosen not to implement the drug court model; these “non-drug courts” coordinate treatment services for offenders under the supervision of a judge, but in a less formal way.

The Administrative Office of the Courts  has a directory of all of the drug courts and other problem-solving courts in the state, as well as descriptions of the various types.  

According to a 2003 Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) cost-benefit analysis, drug courts are a cost-effective tool in reducing criminal recidivism among offenders. In a July 2011 report, Return on Investment, WSIPP identifies a number of programs and practices - including drug courts for adults as well as for juveniles - that have a proven, positive benefit-to-cost ratio.

Drug Courts are funded in multiple ways.  Typically, the county covers the judicial costs including the judge, prosecutor, and court staff.  Counties may use money generated from sales taxes to purchase alcohol and other drug treatment services for drug court clients. 

DBHR funding for treatment services are provided based on the offender’s eligibility and assessed need, and can be paid for from a variety of sources.  For example, funding may come from Medicaid or from dollars specifically targeted for pregnant and/or parenting women.

DBHR also has funds under Criminal Justtice Treatment Account (CJTA) (see RCW 70.96A.350 ) for offenders who do not meet other DSHS eligibility requirements.  This law designated DBHR as the administrator of the funds and the convener of the CJTA Panel. The CJTA Panel is responsible for determining the distribution methods for the CJTA funds, to provide judicially supervised substance abuse treatment for offenders in lieu of incarceration.  All treatment funded under CJTA must be provided by state-certified treatment agencies. 

In fiscal year 2011, 3,753 individuals were served through CJTA; 911 of them participated in drug court. 

Fact Sheet:  Drug Courts Save Money (Washington State Drug Court Professionals, 2011).

The minimum requirements for offender participation are:

  • The offender would benefit from substance abuse treatment.
  • The offender has not previously been convicted of a serious violent offense or sex offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030.
  • The offender is not currently charged with or convicted of an offense: 
    • That is a sex offense.
    • That is another type of serious, violent offense.
    • That involved using a firearm.
    • That caused substantial bodily harm or death to another person.

Washington State currently has 23 adult and 13 juvenile drug courts, as well as many other problem-solving courts, such as veteran’s and family treatment courts.  The following documents explain plans for expansion, workforce development and collaboration.

Washington Drug Court Strategic Plan (October 2011)

Strategic Planning Survey: The Washington State Problem-Solving Court (August 2011).