County drug court has a two-decade record of success

In a region where illegal drug use is a problem too big to ignore, a court program that focuses on drug treatment has to make a major, positive impact.

By any measure, Lycoming County’s drug court program is making that kind of impact.

Lycoming County President Judge Nancy L. Butts reviewed the history and performance of the drug court, one of the oldest in the state, for the Williamsport Rotary Club last week.

The state instituted problem-solving courts in 1997 and Lycoming County started its drug court in 1998, so the track record is almost two decades old.

And the results have been reduced recidivism, cuts in jail costs and homelessness and a reduction in the amount of overpopulation at the county prison.

The recidivism rate – people repeating offenses – statewide is 55 percent. For participants in the county’s drug court, the recidivism rate is 25 percent. And isn’t that the whole point of the corrections process, correcting what went wrong with someone so it is not repeated?

That saves the county money in incarceration costs and pays a dividend to the community when a person goes from being part of the court system to being part of the employment roll.

The drug court program works because it is long and detailed and geared toward reversing the characteristics that get a person in the program in the first place. The program is more than a year long and participants are monitored and met with throughout. It also includes a healthy dose of encouragement for participants, according to Judge Butts.

The results speak for themselves. Since 1998, the county’s drug court has celebrated 342 graduates and presently has 81 active members. That’s a lot of people getting out of the court system and becoming productive members of the community.