Missouri Chief Justice calls for new drug courts

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JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri may soon be expanding its drug treatment courts.

During the State of the Judiciary on Wednesday, Chief Justice Zel Fischer mentioned there are 15 counties in the state that lack treatment courts. He aims to change that.

“We anticipate our treatment courts will be on the front lines of the opioid battle,” Fischer said in the statement. 

According to Fischer, Missouri lost 1,066 people in 2015 and 1,371 people in 2016 to a drug overdose. 

Boone County Drug Court Commissioner Casey Clevenger said on Thursday she believes having some sort of treatment court is important for people all around Missouri. She said counties that do not have treatment courts are at a disadvantage.

“Treatment courts have been proven through decades of research to save money and change lives,” she said. “Particularly with the opioid crisis, studies show that it takes someone more than one time in treatment for them to actually become involved in a life of recovery.”

According to Fischel, Missouri has already seen a steady increase of people entering treatment courts due to heroin or other opioid use.

“Research demonstrates treatment courts are more cost-effective than any other criminal justice strategy,” he said in the statement. “But our treatment courts have been able to serve only a small percentage of individuals facing felony drug charges.”

According to Fischel, the average admission to the treatment court has dropped since last July. 

“I think the chief justice was sending a great message to the legislature, encouraging them to support treatment courts,” Clevenger said. 

She said without the support of the legislature, the drug courts would not be in session.

“I believe in drug courts because I’ve seen drug courts work first hand, and that’s really exciting,” she said. “I feel blessed to have had that opportunity, and I want everyone to be able to see that opportunity.”