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AIC-Nebraska Alternative Courts: Douglas County Drug Court

This Guide, prepared by the Robert M. Spire American Inn of Court, presents resources on Nebraska alternative courts.

Overview

The Douglas County Adult Drug Court, a division of the District Court of Nebraska, 4th Judicial District, located in Omaha, Nebraska became the first Drug Court in the state in April 1997 under the leadership of retired District Court Judge James M. Murphy.  The Adult Drug Court serves a client population residing in the metropolitan Omaha area as well as in several smaller, surrounding communities.  The Drug Court’s objective is to divert non-violent, substance-abusing felony offenders from incarceration to a judicially supervised program of substance abuse treatment, case-management activities, and educational and employment objectives.  A reduction in substance abuse is intended to lead to a decrease in the commission of drug-related criminal offenses and, correspondingly, a reduction of the offender incarceration costs incurred by state and local government entities.  The Drug Court’s ultimate goal is to restore each Drug Court participant to productive citizenry in the community.  No individual is excluded from the Drug Court program on the basis of race; gender; ethnicity’ or national origin; or sexual orientation.

The Adult Drug Court’s maximum capacity is 150 participants.  The target populations are individual’s that have been charged with felony offenses in the Douglas County jurisdiction. This population is required to have a verbalized drug or alcohol problem, be willing to seek recommended treatment services, and adhere to court expectations. The working number of participants enrolled on any given day averages 180 currently.  The Drug Court’s format, started off in 1997 as being a pre-plea drug court, meaning defendants, looking to enter drug court could do so without having to enter a plea of guilty on their charge.  In 2003, the single pre-plea track presided over by one Judge was added to by beginning an additional track and making this one be a post-plea format. Post plea drug court requires the defendant to plead guilty to his/her charge before considering them for admission. On July 1, 2007 Douglas County District Court converted its Drug Court pre-plea track to that of a post-plea format, giving Douglas County an adult drug court with two separate internal court levels, both of which were post-plea. 

In May of 2009 the adult drug court changed its structure one more time. Instead of three judges overseeing two distinct levels, the two levels were merged giving the county one adult drug court, and added a fourth judge.

At the present time to enter into the Adult Drug Court t the process starts with the felony offender’s written application/petition and approval by the Douglas County Attorney after; review of the offender’s criminal history; review of the circumstances of the charged offense; review of offender’s criminal history; and of course, approval by the Drug Court Judge in the signing of the Admission Order. 

Offenders admitted into the Adult Drug Court are required to formally enter a plea of guilty on their charge(s).   They are informed at this plea hearing that they are not guaranteed admission, but must first be approved for admission by the Drug Court team.  Once admitted, the new participant is provided with an orientation/intake before they are moved into phase I of a three-phase system, and assigned a Drug Court Case Supervisor who will be responsible for the overall care and supervision.   The Drug Court Case Supervisor is dually credentialed, possessing either a licensure as a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LADC) and or as a licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP). 

Defendants accessing the admission process will first be required to seek out a hearing date in front of one of the four Drug Court Judges. This is done so by contacting the District Court Administrator’s Office and finding out the rotation cycle of  which Drug Court Judge is next to accept a defendant. By entering a plea with their now assigned District Court judge (Drug Court Judge), the judge, if appropriate and approved, then signs an order establishing a future sentencing date and a waiver of a PSI (pre-sentence investigation).  If the entering offender follows through and admits to Drug Court, the previously assigned sentencing date is over ridden by the order admitting the offender into the Drug Court program. If the offender fails to follow through with admission, he/she is then expected at the assigned sentencing date. At the unfortunate timeframe of a participant’s premature departure from Drug Court, the participant will face sentencing with their previously assigned District Court Judge (one of the four Drug Court Judges).  At this timeframe in the termination the responsible judge orders a PSI and establishes a sentencing date. 

Cost Benefits

March 2004

  • Annual cost savings for jail confinement = $622,098 (UNO).
  • Annual cost savings for prison incarceration = $1,125,642 (UNO).
    • Annual savings for post-conviction incarceration in Nebraska Department of Corrections facilities based on annual cost of $54,885 for drug court participants vs. traditionally adjudicated offenders at $1,180,527 (UNO).
    • Annual savings used to re-allocate scarce resources such as prison beds for violent offenders (UNO).
    • In the past 10 years, cost of operating state’s prison system has doubled (Journal Star).
    • Keeping meth addicts in Nebraska prisons costs about $3 Million per year (Journal Star).
  • Annual cost savings for processing and prosecuting drug offenders at District Court level = $125,703 (UNO).
  • Annual cost savings for processing and prosecuting drug offenders at County Court level = $51,234 (UNO).
  • Annual cost savings for fewer misdemeanor arrests in follow-up period (-132) = $346,129 (UNO).
  • Annual cost savings for fewer felony arrests in follow-up period (-60) = $533,468 (UNO).
  • Annual societal-impact/victimization cost savings (productivity/lost wages, medical and mental-health care, social/victim services, property and monetary “out-of-pocket” losses, pain, suffering and lost quality of life) for fewer violent crimes (-38), fewer property crimes (-71), fewer drug or other “victimless” crimes (-83) in follow-up period = $1,174,809 (UNO).
    • Drug Courts contribute to reduction in crime and thus lowering associated crime-victim, societal and taxpayer costs (UNO).
    • Reduction in public expenses for victim services, disability, and income-support transfer payments, impact on higher property, automobile, personal-injury, liability and medical insurance premiums (UNO).
    • More societal impact savings include decreased public medical costs due to drug free births or early detection and treatment of infectious diseases and/or mental health problems.  Taxpayer savings from gainful employment and educational improvements attained by program participants (UNO).
  • Annual total cost savings = $3,400,800 or $11,336 per Drug Court participant (UNO).
  • Law Enforcement savings realized in less time and cost for investigation, preparation and testimony at hearings and trials, as well as guarding and transporting prisoners for court (UNO).
  • Other jurisdictions have documented participant improvements in education, formation/retention of stable person/family relationships (including child custody) and treatment of medical and mental health conditions resulting in an increase in tax-bases and tax payer savings due to less reliance on social welfare programs or other government transfer payments (UNO).
  • National Findings in 2003:
    • Less than 50% of drug court participants employed full or part-time at time of entry of program with many on public assistance.  At graduation more than 90% employed. (UNO).
      Over 3,500 participants regained custody of minor children (UNO).
      • Buffalo Drug Court saw 30 children returned to parents resulting in $488,010 foster-care payment savings (UNO).
    • Over 4,500 participants in arrears in child support payment became current (UNO).
      • Buffalo Drug Court participants’ arrearage payments totaled $96,000 (UNO).
    • Over 2,000 drug-free babies born to participants.  Estimated care and treatment costs for drug addicted babies are $250,000 for first year, and an additional $750,000 for each child by age 18 (UNO).
       

First Drug Court Appearance

At the first Drug Court appearance of the Adult Drug Court, the participant is introduced to the Drug Court Judge and other members of the Drug Court Team.  If the decision by the team is made to admit, the judge signs an order officially admitting the individual and thus the sentencing date that was assigned the offender at their plea hearing will be superseded. The  The admitting individual remains in court and observes the Drug Court proceedings for that afternoon.   At the completion of court that afternoon, the Judge asks all new admissions if they have any questions, after which he/she is handed a “return to court” card and given an orientation packet to take home and read, and lastly, is given an orientation date with their assigned Drug Court Case Supervisor. The new admission is now officially a Drug Court participant and is considered to be in phase-one of the program.

On-Going Case Management

Each participant of the Drug Court meets frequently with his/her Drug Court Case Supervisor in correspondence with the Drug Court’s phase system (see page 9).  At the case-management meetings, the counselor verifies the participant's progress and makes sure the pertinent program expectations are occurring within appropriate timelines and that the Drug Court participant is adhering to the prescribed therapeutic program goals to include but not limited to: healthy living situation; education expectations are being adhered to; employment expectations discussed; changes that have occurred since the last visit; and drug screening log is reviewed.   The counselor will also refer the participant to other appropriate agencies for social services, medical care, and other participant needs.

The on-gong case management within the Drug Court program is done so by qualified professionals (Case Supervisors). Staff within the Drug Court carries one or two credentials. They are either a state licensed drug and alcohol counselor (LADC), or a state licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP) or both. These credentials allow the Drug Court participants with the very best of both worlds.  Not only are they in a well structured, judicially supervised program, but they are also being supervised/managed by a qualified licensed professional whose expertise lies in substance abuse and mental health. 

The Drug Court Case Supervisor is as well responsible for making sure that the participant receives a drug and alcohol evaluation. Drug and alcohol evaluations are not to be any older than 6-months and are to follow Nebraska’s Standardized Model for Justice and Substance Abuse Service Systems.  As soon as the new participant demonstrates initial program compliance by showing to assigned groups, assigned court dates and displaying a willing attitude, the participant is scheduled with there Case Supervisor to under go the evaluation process.  On average, a 2-3 week period has lapsed before an evaluation timeframe is established. 

It is the Drug Court Case Supervisor that establishes themselves as the portal to change and through there interactions over time lead the Drug Court participant closer to personal growth and insight. 

Drug Court Sessions and Case Reviews

Drug Court Sessions

All Drug Court sessions (open court) are held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Drug Court hearings are held on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons under the judicial leadership of four District Court Judges, the Honorable Judges Greg M. Schatz, Gary B. Randall, Thomas A. Otepka, and Leigh Ann Retelsdorf. All four judges split the month and take two consecutive Tuesday or Wednesday sessions each month.  All court reviews and sessions are held in the Douglas County Courthouse. 

Drug Court Case Reviews

Drug Court case reviews are an organized timeframe, bringing together the designated Drug Court Team to review and discuss from all professional viewpoints the current status of each participant scheduled to appear that day in the open Drug Court session.  Drug Court case reviews are generally held just prior the court session. 

Case reviews and sessions are attended by the Drug Court Team, consisting of  the Drug Court Judge for that particular session, Drug Court Coordinator, Drug Court Counselors, Drug Court Treatment Coordinator, Deputy County Attorney, and representative(s) from the Public Defender’s office when requested.  At case reviews, the judge generally asks for a verbal progress report from the Treatment Coordinator providing an overview to the judge on whether or not a particular participant has gotten into substance abuse services, or if so how the participant is progressing in those services.  As well the Drug Court Counselor is asked to provide an update on current status and compliance issues related to there specific caseload for that day. A decision is then made by all team members, ultimately the judge, as to the actions the court should take later that day in the open Drug Court session as it specifically relates to each of Drug Court participants seen that day.

It is here in the Drug Court case reviews that the Team reviews each component of the participant’s status since their last court visit.  The judge discusses possible sanctions, rewards, reviews drug screening results, group attendance and any other court instruction that may have been given at a prior court session.

Additional advanced preparation is also necessary by cross-checking among the Drug Court Program office, the District Court bailiff, the County Attorney, the Public Defender, and the Treatment Coordinator regarding what participants are appearing at each Drug Court session.  A weekly roster of Drug Court participants is computer-generated by the Drug Court administrative assistant and sent to the aforementioned offices to compare lists, cross check participant names, and ensure uniformity.

Commencement

Participants in Phase III who have met all program requirements are eligible to be considered for graduation from the Drug Court.

The first step in applying for graduation involves the participant completing an "Application for Graduation" (a copy of which is in the attachment section of this manual).

In addition to completing the "Application for Graduation," the participant must also complete:

1. A GED or other required education.
2. 6 months of consistent Drug Court approved employment.
3. 6 months leading up to graduation all drug screens need to be negative.
4. Substance abuse treatment and Drug Court support groups.
5. Payment of all court costs,  program fees, and drug screening fees (or receive a waiver from the Drug Court Judge).
6. A valid driver's license.
7. Pass a criminal record check.  (A participant cannot graduate if he/she has pending charges, other than the Drug Court offense; or if he/she was convicted of a new offense for which the Douglas County Attorney determines he/she should be terminated from the Drug Court.).
8. Payment of restitution (if required) in an amount to be determined by the County Attorney.

The Drug Court Team meets to determine eligibility for graduation, based on completion of the aforementioned requirements.

Graduation ceremonies are prestigious events in the lives of Drug Court graduates.  For many participants, it is the first time they have been rewarded for positive achievements.

The ceremony consists of recognition of dignitaries, family, invited guests, and graduates, a keynote speech by a local or national dignitary or former graduate; personal comments by graduates, and presentation of certificates, medallions, and dismissal orders.  The ceremony is followed by refreshments and fellowship between graduates and invitees.  Graduations are held quarterly.

Alumni Groups / Mentoring

Participants who have successfully graduated from the Drug Court are encouraged to attend alumni groups, graduations, and other Drug Court activities.  The alumni group is comprised of other Drug Court graduates and offers them an opportunity to share experiences and recovery issues with people who have common interests and concerns, and provide input in improving the Drug Court.

Interested participants from the alumni group will be asked to meet periodically with new Drug Court clients to discus program expectations.

This component of the alumni group helps new participants establish a connection with someone who has experienced the program and is added support to ensure successful outcomes.

The mentoring program is entirely voluntary. 

Drug Screening

The Adult Drug Court continually seeks cutting edge technology to cost effectively manage the drug screening/testing component of its operation while still maintaining the highest supervision and deterrence level possible.  As a new participant enters the Drug Court, after the orientation/intake, they are signed up to begin the process of drug screening.

The Drug Court has enhanced its regimen of substance abuse screening of participants by leasing the PassPoint Substance Abuse Screening System, a device known as the PassPoint pupillometer.  The pupillometer, by measuring the eye’s involuntary reflex reactions to light, enables the Drug Court staff to more effectively and less expensively identify drug impairment among its participants by “pre-screening” them before requiring urinalysis (UA) screening, which is more expensive ($7.00 per sample for a 9-panel test), more labor-intensive, not to mention personally invasive.  This pre-screening event via the use of the PassPoint pupillometer therefore limits the number of urinalysis administered proportionately lowering the total urinalysis testing costs. 

Each new participant initially under goes a base lining on the PassPoint machine and if the participants urine sample, taken that day, is negative, the participant is accepted onto the call-in color drug screening system.  Once on the call-in system, each participant is expected to call the drug screen phone line daily in the morning between a specified window, there they will be given the color or Drug Court I.D. of the day. If on the PassPoint call-in list for that day, If instructed by the PassPoint pupillometer to provide a urinalysis, participants then comply and produce an observed drug test.  If instructed not to drop a urinalysis by PassPoint, the participant is free to go.  The participant remains on the random drug screening system for their entire Drug Court involvement.
 
All participants PassPoint screen at the same rate, usually somewhere between 3-4 times a week.  This is in addition to the Drug Court Judge ordering the participant to drop a urine sample, or one’s case manager requesting a participant to drop.
The Adult Drug Court utilizes an array of testing measures in its drug screening/testing operations. Not only is the process supervised and maintained by one full-time staff and one part-time staff giving the process the ability to physically observe the participant providing a urinalysis no matter the gender, but the combination, allows for a more heightened degree of supervision and social control when maximum testing volume is reached each day.

The Adult Drug Court has the ability to test participant’s urine samples on-site with the use of multi-drug screen test panels.  These may be chosen by staff on the spot primarily to provide a quick return on drugs found in participant’s urine for use in court that day.  The drug testing method of choice, more over the on-site multi-drug test panels are the actual urine samples that are sent in daily to the contracted testing laboratory.  In utilizing the outside testing laboratory the Drug Court is provided an array of drug testing options for a one small price. Not to mention the fact that the laboratory is utilized to provide technical support, reporting, and overall customer service.

Presently within the Adult Drug Court when samples are sent in to the testing laboratory the following nine panels are used: Amphetamines, Opioids (Opiates), Barbiturates, Cocaine Metabolites, Benzodiazepines, Creatinine (PCP), Volatiles (Ethanol), and Cannabinoids (THC) and Oxycodone.

The methodology that is used by the testing laboratory is an enzyme immunoassay reagent for preliminary screening for drugs listed above.  The Olympus AU 640 is employed as the instrument for initial analysis and positive results, as indicated by the preliminary screening, are confirmed by EIA, Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry/Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) as default testing choice can be ordered further confirming the results, or if specified, gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) method can be employed. All come at varying costs, and with varying limitations.

All urine samples depart the drug court office daily Monday thru Friday and are flown directly to the testing laboratory located currently in Denver, CO., where a one day (24 hour) turn-around time is the standard for specimen results.  The results are then emailed directly to the appropriate Drug Court staff.

In theory, all Adult Drug Court participants begin on the Random PassPoint testing level and remain at that level for the duration of their stay. If participants, while involved in their program, test positive their case is reviewed in court by the Drug Court team, and decisions are then made as to the intensity and level of response to the participant.  Based on each case file, the response may range from minimal sanctions like that of a verbal warning, to a more extreme response like that of confinement or program termination.

Other then a urinalysis sample resulting in a positive or negative test, the following options exist as well:

  • Tampered/ dilute
  • Refused
  • No-show

The tampered sample is a urine sample where the lid was not secured at the point of sealing and labeling, and is a result of the Drug Court participant not fastening the lid to the jar tightly enough. The sample leaks in transit and cannot be tested.  Another form of tampering is when the urine sample is miss threaded on the jar and leaking occurs, again the sample leaks in transit and cannot be tested.  In either event, the urine sample labeling and securing process is performed by the participant supervised by Drug Court staff. This labeling process is made to be the responsibility of the participant.

A dilute urine sample may initially appear light in color and if so, it is tested for adulterants by the laboratory.  During the testing process, if the Creatinine (Creatinine is a normally occurring compound in the urine that is produced by the liver) level is less than 20 mg/dL it is considered abnormally dilute.   Dilution can occur by short-term water loading or direct addition of water to the specimen.

A refused/no-show is when a Drug Court participant, present for a urinalysis, either out-right refuses to provide the urine sample when requested, or if a participant neglects to show-up when his/her testing group or testing call-in qualifier is listed or he/she fails to show-up to the drug screening office when they have been directly ordered by the court to do so.  When a refusal/no-show occurs the Drug Court participant is responded to with appropriate sanctions.

All Drug Court participants are expected to provide a urine sample the day requested and at the time they appear within the drug screening office.  Each participant is given three separate chances during the urinalysis episode. If no urine is provided after the third attempt it is assumed that the Drug Court participant is positive and corresponding sanctions are applied.

Termination

A participant can be terminated from the Drug Court for failure to comply with any of the terms and conditions of the program, to include but not limited to, re-arrest on new charges.

If an individual is being considered for Termination a couple different options present themselves, given the type of termination. If the participant is volunteering to withdraw from the Drug Court and wishes not to have counsel present, then their request is granted. If the participant wishes to withdraw and have counsel present a subsequent Drug Court hearing will be arranged and at that hearing participant’s request will be granted. If on the other hand a participant wishes to remain in Drug Court but the Drug Court Program is the body initiating the termination, then the participant is informed by the Drug Court Judge that they are being considered for termination and a subsequent Drug Court hearing is established.  This separate termination hearing can take place in the Drug Court hearing itself or at another time agreed upon by all parties.  This termination hearing is designed to provide the terminating participant with due process.  The Drug Court Judge presiding over this terminating case has the discretion to determine whether or not the participant’s bond should be revoked during this termination process.

Confidentiality

Both federal laws; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), effective April 14, 2003 protects the privacy of health information held by health plans, health care clearing houses and the vast majority of health care providers, including most drug and alcohol programs or access to treatment providers; and the federal law known as 42 C.F.R. Part 2 govern confidentiality within the Drug Court structure. 

The Douglas County Adult Drug Court Program is structured in a way that a unit or office of the drug court itself specializes in the diagnosis, treatment or referral for treatment (access to treatment) of drug and alcohol problems and therefore is a “program” governed by 42 C. F. R. Part 2.  Because the Adult Drug Court transmits health information electronically as part of a covered transaction, it is also a covered entity subject to HIPAA.  Even though the Adult Drug Court office is a part of the drug court itself, it must still abide by the restrictions of both HIPAA and 42 C. F. R. Part 2.  Consequently, just like any freestanding, independent drug  and alcohol program, this unit or office of the drug court may not share confidential information with individuals/professionals outside the program (even if they are involved in the defendant’s  case or otherwise part of the drug court) unless there is consent or another authorized basis for the disclosure. And, just like any freestanding, independent drug and alcohol program, persons within this unit or office may share information among themselves on a need to know basis when necessary to perform their duties in connection with the provision of alcohol or drug services. 

Within the Adult Drug Court program office a multitude of confidentiality measures are taken to protect the patient health information (PHI) and to be in compliance with federal regulations governing such material/actions.  All PHI is secured at a minimum by a double lock rule.  All participant paper case files are stored in locking cabinets, locking desk drawers behind locking office doors and locking suite doors.  Facsimile machine, copy machine, locking shred bin are all secured after office hours by a locking workroom door, and locking outer suite door. The office building in which the Drug Court exists is patrolled after hours by a security company and an on-site security officer.   The Drug Court’s Management Information System (MIS) is secured with current state of the art firewall protection, and approved certificate entrance.

All Case Managers are licensed in the State of Nebraska have under gone extensive training in the area of confidentiality laws.

Drug Court Management Team And Memorandum Of Understanding

The Douglas County Drug Court is a program operated by the District Court of Douglas County, Nebraska.  The purpose of the management team is to ensure that the goals and objectives of the Douglas County Drug Court are met.  The purpose of the Douglas County Adult Drug Court is to reduce offender recidivism and substance abuse through a comprehensive and coordinated court response.  Such action includes:

  • Early intervention
  • Appropriate treatment
  • Intensive case management supervision
  • Consistent judicial oversight
  • Drug monitoring

In addition, the management team will develop guidelines and procedures to ensure that goals are met; oversee program evaluation; serve as the clearinghouse for all funding issues of the court including grants from federal or local foundations; mediate disputes and continue to develop operation guidelines as the need arises.  This group serves as a means to develop policy and strategic direction for the Douglas County Adult Drug Court.  Ad hoc committees of the Drug Court management team will be developed to deal with topic specific issues, such that they are needed.

Drug Court Team Membership:

  • Drug Court Judge
  • District Court Judges
  • County Attorney, Deputy County Attorney
  • Public Defender, Deputy Public Defender
  • District Court Administrator
  • Deputy Court Administrator
  • United States Attorney
  • Drug Court Coordinator


The membership of the Douglas County Adult Drug Court Management Team is that of the agency head or designated representative.  This group shall meet on an as needed basis primarily organized and determined by the Drug Court Coordinator.

The Memorandum of Understanding describes what each agency/entity will do and how the agency/entity will do it.  This document is helpful to clarify roles of each agency/entity, to help when new members enter the Drug Court Team, and to help with the conflict that naturally arises using the Drug Court model.  The Memorandum of Understanding, in its' entirety, is an attachment to this manual.

Drug Court Team

The Adult Drug Court Team consists of the Judge setting the bench, of which Douglas County Adult Drug Court has four; a Deputy County Attorney, a Public Defender; Drug Court office staff consisting of the Drug Court Coordinator, Drug Court Treatment Coordinator, and the Drug Court Counselor.

Eligibility

The Douglas County Attorney's office determines client eligibility for the Drug Court by a review of the offender's police report(s) and prior arrest record:  Listed below are the track admission specifications for each of the two tracks in the Adult Drug Court:

Who is eligible for the Adult Drug Court?

  • Applicant charged with an offense that is related to a substance abuse/dependence lifestyle, such as possession of a controlled substance.
  • Applicant must be approved by the County Attorney, Drug Court Judge, and meet the criteria of the Drug Court Intake process to be accepted.
  • Applicant must admit to having a substance related problem and agree to complete all requested treatment services.
  • Documented drug and alcohol abuse and/or drug dependent lifestyle.
  • Applicant may have two recent non-violent felony convictions.
  • Applicant with prior felony charges for violent offenses that occurred more than ten (10) years ago may be considered.
  • Applicant must be approved by the County Attorney, Drug Court Judge, and meet the criteria of the Drug Court Intake process to be accepted.
  • Applicant with prior trafficking felony convictions may be considered depending on all circumstances

Who is ineligible for Drug Court?

  • If the admitting charge(s) is: Murder, Manslaughter, Robbery, Felony Assault, Sexual Assault, Assault with a Deadly Weapon.
  • Prior felony conviction for a crime of violence, less five years out.
  • Prior offense resulting in death.
  • Known and/or documented gang involvement.
  • Multiple prior misdemeanors for crimes against a person; Resisting Arrest, Assaulting a Law Enforcement Officer, Flight to Avoid Arrest, Weapons and Driving Under the Influence.
  • Not admitted if you have any felony convictions of the following:
    • Assaults
    • Sexual assaults
    • Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer
    • Fleeing to avoid arrest
  • Any unresolved restitution issues.
  • No active warrants.
  • Recent firearms/weapons issues will be dealt with on a case by case basis.
     

Eligible felony offenses are possession of controlled substance, intent to deliver a controlled substance, prescription fraud, and property offenses that were committed by an individual to support continued drug use, i.e. forgery, credit card fraud, unauthorized use of a financial transaction device.

If an offender is to meet the basic eligibility criteria for the Drug Court, he/she must also acknowledge a substance abuse problem for which he/she is willing to seek treatment and adhere to all other terms and conditions of the Drug Court Program.

The Douglas County Attorney exercises sole discretion in determining admission eligibility for the Drug Court based on the eligibility criteria.  The Drug Court Team bears responsibility for not only receiving County Attorney referrals, but also reviewing each of the referrals for appropriateness and whether or not offender is admitted into the Drug Court program.  Just because an offender meets admission criteria, and is referred by the County Attorney doesn’t guarantee admission into the Drug Court Program.

Screening

Immediately after arrest, and at the point of the offender’s case being bound over from County Court to District Court, offender’s police reports and criminal records are screened for Drug Court appropriateness by a representative of the Douglas County Attorney's office.  If at this preliminary review the current case details look to fit the admission criteria of the Adult Drug Court offender's file (or squeal sheet) is tagged as suitable for Drug Court.  At bond setting, the County Attorney informs the bond setting judge, the offender's attorney, and the offender of their potential eligibility for the Drug Court Program.  They are given a brochure about the program and instructed that the next step of the admission processes would be for the representing attorney to fill out an application for admission/petition, and submit this to the Deputy County Attorney covering Drug Court admissions.

If the County Attorney representative, who is also a Drug Court Team member, decides the case is qualified for possible Drug Court admission, the counsel representing the offender requests from the assigned District Court Judge that the case be considered for Drug Court admission. The Deputy County Attorney working with the Drug Court team has the discretion to consult with the Drug Court to have the offender’s case file reviewed for appropriateness, were an additional clinical level of review is offered.  The Drug Court Coordinator reviews each admitting file as a second layer of safety and  from a therapeutic eligibility standpoint  determines whether or not the offender would be fully capable of engaging all of the Drug Court’s expectations either physically or mentally or both.  The Drug Court Coordinator then matches the potential admission with a corresponding Drug Court Case Supervisor in anticipation of an orientation/intake timeframe to be established.  That way when the new Drug Court participant enters court for the first time after their plea hearing, they are given an appointment card of who their Drug Court Case Supervisor will be and an orientation date and time.

On each referral, the County Attorney provides the Drug Court Office with an admission petition and police report(s).  This preliminary information is the initial notification of a possible new admission and the data is then entered into the Drug Court’s Problem Solving Court Management Information System (PSCMIS) by the Drug Court Secretary for purposes of tracking preliminary admission and all correspondence that my ensure.  If the eligible party fails to connect by not showing to their initial court date as assigned by the judge taking their plea, a warrant is issued for their arrest.

Orientation / Intake

Orientations/Intakes are completed with potential participants on an individual basis to assist Drug Court Case Supervisors in developing rapport and to initiate a safe atmosphere for participants to divulge personal information and to gather information of what to expect in the Drug Court program.  The intake interview requires about 1 ½ hours to complete.  At this interview the Case completes the following forms with the client.  (All orientation forms are attached to and viewable under drug court rule requirement checklist number 13).

1. Computer intake update.
2. Release of Information within Drug Court Team and related personnel.
3. Release of Information to/from outside sources.
4. Program agreement form.
5. Program fee form.
6. Medical form.
7. Group rules agreement
8. Nebraska Standardized Model: Simple Screening Simple Screening Instrument (SSI).
9. Social history information.

In addition to Drug Court orientation/Intake and completion of all admission forms, the Case Supervisor initiates the eligible individual's first urinalysis, makes an appointment for his/her first Drug Court appearance, assigns participant to all necessary groups, i.e., drug screening baseline appointments; transition group for new clients; and hands the potentially new admission a copy of all paperwork and appointments and lastly assigns a follow-up office appointment with the Drug Court Case Supervisor.

A hard file, containing the participant’s paperwork is generated and stored within the Drug Court Program office and follows the participant throughout his/her involvement.  In addition to the hard file, a computer generated file is as well kept on the participant within the Drug Court’s PSCMIS.  This computerized file is available in a view only format to approved Drug Court Team members, such as the Judge, County Attorney, and Public Defender.  The entire Drug Court staff has total access to the Drug Court’s PSCMIS system.

Treatment

All Drug Court participants are required to seek out and complete designated levels of formal substance abuse and/or mental health services.

After the Drug Court Case Supervisor has secured a drug and alcohol evaluation the participant then schedules an office appointment with the Drug Court Treatment Coordinator for a review of the participant’s evaluation, and more specifically a discussion of the treatment recommendations.  The Treatment Coordinator works in unison with the participant discussing appropriate treatment providers, locations, and types and characteristics of services offered.  The Treatment Coordinator along with the Drug Court Case Supervisor develop a treatment course, often times with multiple levels of care, and with different agencies that will guide the participant with his/her treatment needs throughout the duration of the Drug Court Program. 

The Drug Court participant is apart of the discussion process, and his/her opinions and feedback are solicited.  Once treatment arrangements have been discussed and fundamentally agreed upon by the participant, the proper release forms are secured, the identified treatment provider is called and the referral is made.  The Participant is instructed to call the treatment provider, making the necessary arrangements for intake, and the Drug Court Treatment Coordinator begins logging and tracking responsibilities. 

If in the event of pre-mature termination from the initial treatment provider, either due to the discretion of the Drug Court staff or due to the treatment provider, the Drug Court Team would discuss appropriate next steps.  Next steps could be but are not limited to, alternative treatment placement at the same level of care/provider; alternative treatment placement at an increased level of care at an alternative provider; court sanctions in response to pre-mature termination; and termination from the Drug Court program altogether.

In the event of successful completion from the agreed upon and prescribed treatment placement plan the participant would be considered done with their primary treatment expectations and would move onto discussions with the Drug Court Treatment Coordinator, regarding appropriate aftercare/relapse prevention services. 

In the event a Drug Court participant at anytime refuses to adhere to the treatment recommendations, his/her case will be immediately scheduled for a court hearing and his/her non-compliance evaluated. 

The Treatment Coordinator continuously tracks the participant’s treatment progress throughout the course of treatment and informs the case review team of the participant's activities in treatment at case review meetings prior to each Drug Court session. The Treatment Coordinator is seen as the liaison between the Adult Drug Court and the local behavioral healthcare network.  The available network of providers consists of both private and public all primary level providers are licensed and certified through (Nebraska) state licensing/certification agencies and employ appropriately credentialed professionals.

A list of substance abuse and mental health treatment providers referred to by the Adult Drug Court, appears in the attachment section of this manual.

Drug Court Phase System

The over all concept of having a phase system within the Adult Drug Court program is to provide guidance and accountability from both the Drug Court Counselor’s and Drug Court participant’s perspective.  Therapeutically, the phase system is set-up to provide a structured platform requiring phase one participants with a high degree of structure, and compliance objectives when they require it most.  Phase two is where access to formal treatment is provided and the Drug Court participant experiences only a minimal lowering of the prescribed structure and compliance objectives as he/she experienced in phase one.  Phase three is the separation or growth phase.  Here participants experience a high reduction in Drug Court structure, and a lowering of previously experienced compliance objectives.  In phase three each participant has earned, through responsible functioning over the previous two phases, a level of independence.  This independence occurs while still under the direct supervision of the Drug Court Program.

Phases

Any deviations from these phases must have prior approval from the Drug Court Clinical Director.

Phase I    (Must have completed the following in order to move to phase II):

  • Completed (within initial three weeks) initial Risk Needs Assessment (SSI, LSI, SRARF).
  • Compliant with random drug screening/testing requirements, including consistent negative drug tests and consistent attendance for random call-ins.
  • Attend weekly appearances before the Drug Court Judge.
  • Documented weekly attendance in self help/support groups outside of Drug Court, i.e., AA, NA, CA (4 x weekly if in transition class, 3 x weekly if in formal treatment/structured living).
  • Attend weekly case supervision appointments at the Drug Court Office.
  • Complete a Drug & Alcohol evaluation within the first 8 weeks.
  • Weekly attendance in Transition to Treatment groups at the Drug Court Office.
  • Scheduled and have met with Treatment Coordinator regarding treatment plan, selected treatment provider, screened, was accepted and started with services.
  • Successful completion of primary treatment services and in compliance with treatment fees owed.
  • Obtain at least a temporary sponsor.
  • Seek and obtain Drug Court approved employment or maintain current employment that has been approved by Drug Court or have begun approved community service/approved plan.
  • Initiate discussions and identify plan to acquire a driver’s license/GED/ESL.

Phase II  (Must have completed the following in order to move to phase III):

  • Successful completion or in compliance with aftercare, relapse prevention /or supervised supportive services or other approved service level.
  • Attend case supervision appointments with one’s Drug Court Case Supervisor (minimum 2 x a month).
  • Compliant with random drug screening/testing, including consistent negative drug tests and consistent attendance for random call-ins.
  • Attend scheduled Drug Court hearings (minimum 2 x a month).
  • Documented weekly attendance in self help/support groups outside of Drug Court, i.e., AA, NA, CA (3 x weekly if in structured living, 2 x weekly if post structured living). 
  •  Consistent in maintaining Drug Court approved employment/approved community service/approved plan.
  • Obtained a permanent full-time sponsor and has been verified by Drug Court.
  • Entered and completed GED, English as a second language, or other approved academic path.
  • Must be in compliance regarding treatment service fees and all Drug Court fees.
  • Completed Risk Needs Assessment (LSI) at the 6 month time frame.
  • In compliance with GED, ESL or other approved academic path.
     
     

Phase III (Must have completed the following to be considered for commencement):

  • Maintain Drug Court approved employment or other approved plan (6-month minimum at this employment/community service level).
  • Attend case supervision appointments with one’s Drug Court Case Supervisor (minimum of 1 x a month).
  • Attend monthly Drug Court hearings.
  • Attend weekly self-help/support groups, i.e., AA, NA, CA (2 x weekly if post structured living).
  • Confirmed with your Drug Court Case Supervisor that program and commencement requirements have been completed.
  • Compliant with random drug screening/testing, and providing consistent negative drug tests/consistent attendance for random call-ins.
  • Completion of 25 hours of phase III, Drug Court approved community service work.
  • Paid off in full any and all related Drug Court fees. This is to be done by the last day of the month prior commencement. This includes commencement month fees.
  • Participant has disclosed to their Case Supervisor any and all pending or new charges or new contacts with law enforcement personnel since admission into Drug Cout.
  • In collaboration with and approved by Drug Court Case Supervisor, completed “special Project”.
  • Will have completed at least a three-month period in phase III at the point of graduation.
  • Name submitted for graduation roster.
  • Completed the Risk Needs Assessment (LSI) at the 12 and/or 18 month time frame.
  • Provided proof of a valid driver’s license or waived by the Drug Court Judge.
  • Provided proof of a H.S. diploma/GED/ESL classes or waived by the Drug Court Judge.

Sanctions / Incentives

The informed use of sanctions and incentives are at the core of a successful drug court program.  Although it is the judge who ultimately determines the consequence for program compliance or non-compliance, sanction and incentive guidelines are usually developed by team consensus.  Through the judicious use of sanctions and incentives, drug court team members try to motivate participants, change negative behavior and reinforce positive behavior.

The imposition and withholding of sanctions can have unintended consequences not only for the drug court participant, but also for any other drug court participants observing the colloquy between the judge and the drug court participant in question. 

Sanctions

The Douglas County Adult Drug Court employs various sanctions and/or consequences, which are intended to provide program participants with appropriate learning experiences for promoting long-term behavioral change. 

These sanctions are imposed by the Drug Court Judge for infractions such as but not limited to: failure to appear in Drug Court, missing appointments with the treatment provider; Treatment Coordinator; Drug Court Counselor; or Drug Court Drug Technician, re-arrests, positive, tampered with, abnormally dilute, or refused urinalyses.

Participants who have (consistently) positive, abnormally dilute, tampered with, or refused urinalysis can expect to have one or more of the following sanctions imposed upon them as a condition of their continued involvement in the Drug Court:

1. Verbally warned by the Drug Court Judge
2. Increased frequency of urinalysis/office visits
3. Fee assessment of $10.00 for every positive, tampered or dilute sample
4. Re-evaluation of treatment level by Treatment Coordinator
5. Increased level of substance abuse treatment
6. Drug Court appearances increased or the episode lengthened

Other sanctions utilized in the Adult Drug Court are referrals to a work status known as the Offender Work Program (OWP).  The Offender Work Program is an increased sanction for individuals who have generally been non-compliant to one extent or another on more then one occasion or non-compliant in an area that constitutes a more severe response/sanction.  It is a way for participants to physically demonstrate a willingness to remain in the Drug Court.  The Offender Work Program is a city program where referred participants perform various outside work details with the City Parks and Recreation Department.  This work takes place on weekdays (Monday-Friday) from 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM.  This activity is a purely give-back opportunity and no financial gain is had by the participant.

Another, even more severe, sanction is jail confinement. Participants who continue to fail at program compliance can expect to be held in contempt of court.  Participants’ bond will be revoked or increased and taken into custody/jailed for a specific period of time as assigned by the Drug Court Team.  Additionally, failure to show in Drug Court is often responded to by the issuance of a warrant/ capias for a participant's arrest.  Once a participant has been arrested on a Drug Court capias and the Drug Court office has been notified, transportation will be arranged from the Douglas County Correctional Center so the detained participant can appear before the Drug Court Judge at the next Drug Court session.  At this hearing, the judge can cancel the capias and reinstate or continue the original bond so the participant can be released from jail to resume his/her Drug Court requirements.  The participant may also, be sent back into custody only to be brought back at a later time.

In the event that a Drug Court Participant is acting out in such a manner that his/her behavior is a potential threat to themselves or others, a sanction employed by the Drug Court Team is to place the participant in question into custody, raising their bond and instructing them that while in jail, they are to orchestrate the appropriate paperwork (kite) allowing them to be transported and ultimately reside in the Counties Day Reporting Center (DRC).  While in placement at DRC the Drug Court participant is provided with a drug and alcohol evaluation, involved in daily structured classroom teaching on therapeutic topics and supervised by qualified, paid staff 24 hours a day. The expectation with a DRC placed participant is that the participant will remain in a highly structured and supervised environment while the Drug Court Treatment Coordinator works on establishing a more permanent and needs appropriate treatment placement. On average a DRC placed participant will stay at DRC anywhere between 2-4 months maybe less depending on the circumstances.

Whatever the case may be, the Drug Court participant is well aware of the fact that his/her drug court will respond collectively and consistently to negative acting out behaviors.  Responding with a graduated arsenal of sanctions each and every time negative behavior is detected.

Incentives

Like its counter part, incentives are also utilized along similar guidelines as those used in determining participant sanctions.  Graduated incentives are as well, provided to program participants in an effort to motivate and reinforce positive behavioral change. 

The phase structure within the Adult Drug Court exists in part as a large incentive structure.  It rewards drug court participants with freedom/ less supervision, an earned decrease in program objectives, while promoting autonomy and individuation from the drug court program.

Incentives include but are not limited to: a decrease in case management visits with one’s Drug Court Counselor, a decrease in attending weekly Drug Court sessions, moving from once a week to once every other week to every three weeks and then ultimately to once every four weeks. Other incentives include one’s case being called early in the drug court sessions, applause by the Drug Court Judge and audience members while at a Drug Court session, and verbal praise or recognition by the Drug Court Judge.  Other important incentives utilized within the Adult Drug Court are finally the dismal of felony charges off the participant’s record, and graduating from the Adult Drug Court program via a formal commencement ceremony.

Additional incentives experienced by the graduated participant have been to invite them to be guest speakers at local workshops, training events, and Drug Court graduation ceremonies.

Miscellaneous

Drug Court Participation Handbook

Each participant is given a Drug Court handbook at his/her first appointment.  It explains program requirements and expectations and is intended to be a reference for each participant as they make their way along through the program.  The handbook contains a detailed explanation of the terms and conditions, phase system, Drug Court sessions, treatment, relapse prevention, program events, drug screening policy, fees, rewards, sanctions, terminations, confidentiality release forms and a cover page that outlines up coming court dates, office appointments,  and important contact phone numbers.

The participant handbook is reviewed with the participant in it’s' entirety at his/her first Drug Court Program appointment called orientation.

Fees

Participants will be charged a monthly program fee of $40.00.  The fee is expected to be paid by the end of the month that it was incurred within.    Monthly payments are not accepted within the Drug Court Office but are paid to the Clerk of the District Court, 3rd floor, Hall of Justice.  Participants can request an accumulative print out of all payments made at any point in there involvement with the drug court. 

Effective in 2007 and in compliance with the Nebraska Supreme Court, Establishment and Operation of Drug Courts, the Douglas County Adult Drug Court began dividing up the $40.00 a month fee payments so that State enrollment and supervision fees are paid as well.  The state fees allow the Adult Drug Court participant to access treatment voucher funds.

In order for a person to make a fee payment, he/she must get a Drug Court Fee form from Drug Court staff and then take the payment form  to the Clerk of the District Court so that the clerk's office can appropriately credit his/her account.

When a participant makes a fee payment, he/she is to show a copy of the payment receipt from the Clerk of the District Court to Drug Court Program staff, so this information can be properly recorded into the MIS at the Drug Court office.

Participants can as well incur a charge as it relates to drug screening.  Participants will be charged a $10.00 fee for each drug screen that is found to be positive for alcohol and other non-prescription mood altering/non-approved chemicals.  A $10.00 fee is assessed as well for each tamper, dilute, refused, saliva screen, or missed scheduled/random drug screen.  The drug screening charges are in addition to the monthly program fee charge(s) and payment is expected, one week after charge was incurred.

All Drug Court fees are collected by the Clerk of the District Court’s Office.

Restitution

An individual who is participating in the Drug Court because of a property offense, i.e. forgery, or use of a financial transaction device, may be required to pay restitution to the victim of his/her crime. 

Restitution is paid through the same mechanism as program fees.  The County Attorney determines the amount of restitution to be paid and provides this to the Drug Court Program office.  The County Attorney, Drug Court counselor, and participant agree on the amount and determine the monthly amount to be paid.

Staffing

The Douglas County Adult Drug Court is supervised by Douglas County District Court. Program design and changes are made through a supervising body referred to as the Drug Court Management Team.  The Douglas County Drug Court program office employs a coordinator, a treatment coordinator, three counselors, a secretary, a bailiff, one full-time female lab technician and one part-time male lab technician. The Adult Drug Court utilizes four judges. 

Funding

The Douglas County Adult Drug Court is funded by several sources: The Douglas County general fund has been the longtime financial supporter of the Adult Drug Court and supplies over half the yearly drug court budgetary needs.  Starting in 2006 the State of Nebraska through legislative appropriations began supplying the Adult Drug Court with nearly have of its yearly operating budget (Douglas County pays upfront, and the State reimburses the County on a quarterly basis).  Since the Adult Drug Court’s inception in 1997 it has received various financial support from federal and state grant awards.

Fiscal and Statistical/Program Reporting

The Douglas County District Court Administrator's office is responsible for all fiscal oversight of Adult Drug Court's financial affairs to include personnel and payroll, budgeting, expenditures, management, auditing, and reporting of same to the appropriate funding entities.  The Court Administrator's office appraises the Drug Court Coordinator and the Management Team on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis of the fiscal activities of the Douglas County Adult Drug Court. 

Statistical reporting requirements of the Adult Drug Court are the responsibility of the Drug Court Coordinator.  A monthly Drug Court statistical report of client intakes, pending clients, no shows, terminations, completions, withdrawals, not accepted cases, and active clients is maintained by the Drug Court Coordinator and distributed to the Management Team.  This statistical report provides the team with the opportunity to frequently capture the movement of participants into and out of the program, as well as identify trends that may require our attention and follow-up.

Evaluation

The Douglas County Adult Drug Court is committed to demonstrate the cost benefits, recidivism, and treatment outcomes among Drug Court participants in an effort to improve and develop appropriate treatment alternatives within the context of therapeutic jurisprudence.

In late 1998 the Douglas County Adult Drug Court commissioned The Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED) and the University of Nebraska Department of Criminal Justice (UNO) to conduct a three phase evaluation covering: (1) a recidivism study; (2) a cost-benefit study, and (3) analyzing drug court assessment, treatment and extended recidivism.  Phases I, II and III were concluded in May of 2001.

In late 2003 the Douglas County Adult Drug Court again commissioned more outcome evaluations to be performed. R.K. Piper, Public Policy Choices Office University of Nebraska at Omaha, along with Cassia Spohn Department of Criminal Justice University of Nebraska at Omaha joined and provided three main studies: (1) Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Douglas County Drug Court; (2) Felony Offenses in Douglas County District Court, 2001; and (3) The Douglas County Drug Court: Characteristics of Participants, Case Outcomes and Recidivism.  All three studies were completed March 2004 and are available on the District Court’s website.


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