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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
SENTENCING TO DRUG TREATMENT, NOT PRISON
Contact: Susan Leahy, Communication Manager, MGH Center for Community Health Improvement
(617 643-5288 firstname.lastname@example.org
Coria Holland, Director of CommunicationsOffice of the Commissioner of Probation
CHARLESTOWN ADDICTION RECOVERY AND TREATMENT COURT:
SENTENCING TO DRUG TREATMENT, NOT PRISON
BOSTON, MA- May 15, 2013 - The Charlestown Division of the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) and its Probation Department, which established the Charlestown Addiction Recovery Treatment (CHART) Program in partnership with the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition, announces that this new drug court is in full operation. CHART is a specialized court session which assists individuals on probation who suffer with chronic substance abuse. These individuals voluntarily participate in court-stipulated drug treatment as an alternative to prison. The program follows a successful drug court model in Chelsea, where the sentence for these individuals includes intensive court supervision, mandatory drug testing, substance-abuse treatment, and other social services as an alternative to adjudication or incarceration. A U.S. Department of Justice drug court study found that, when appropriately implemented, drug courts can reduce recidivism, decrease the chances of future drug use, and promote positive cost-saving outcomes.1
There is growing support in Charlestown for new ways of pursuing successful treatment for people addicted to alcohol or drugs. Charlestown resident Elaine Donovan says her neighbors’ attitudes toward people with drug and alcohol addictions have changed profoundly over the last 10 years. “Charlestown has always been a close community. If someone in your family had a drug problem, there was a great deal of shame.”
The difference, Elaine said, is the community’s acceptance that substance abuse is a disease. “Today it’s still not ok to be a drug addict, but it is ok to get help,” Elaine added.
Casey Schievink, who’s lived in Charlestown all her life and has struggled with addiction herself, has experienced the community attitude change personally. “People today feel they can talk freely about their struggle and share their experiences. There is an alternative to addiction—treatment and recovery--and this is opening people’s eyes.”
Concurrent with a change in community attitude, Chief Probation Officer Michelle Williams was reviewing the probation caseload at the Charlestown Court House. She found that 90 percent of offenders were on probation for substance abuse-related crimes. Williams then coordinated an effort with community substance abuse providers, the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition (CSAC) and the trial court to establish CHART, one of the 19 drug courts operating in Massachusetts.
Chief Williams said CHART is a logical extension of the community’s mission to support successful treatment for substance abuse. “It is a proactive response to the needs and desires of the community at large. Encouraging pro social behavior and the reduction of recidivism are the heart of probation’s goals. CHART will aid in this endeavor,” she said.
Referrals to CHART come from the defendant, his or her attorney, the district attorney or the probation department. Individuals convicted of arson, sex offenses or violent crimes within the past five years are not eligible. An impartial third party is responsible for screening and evaluating whether a candidate is appropriate. The program extends for a minimum of 18 months, is highly structured and requires a serious commitment from the offender. Chief Williams said that drug court is not a diversion program, and suitability is more a question of choice and desire by the offender than a generic profile.
Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary and Charlestown’s Representative stated “I will continue to support the CHART program because I believe it creates an incredible opportunity for those struggling with addiction to avoid the added burden of being involved in the criminal justice system as an offender when it is in our collective best interest that they receive treatment. I commend the staff of the court, the probation officers and the Presiding Judge for having the foresight to bring this program to Charlestown. My thanks as well to Massachusetts General Hospital- without MGH’s support this option would never exist at our local district court. Beth Rosenshein, Shannon Lundin, Judge McCormick and others are saving lives every day because of this program.”
Similar to the Chelsea Drug Court, CHART has created a team approach model to direct and coordinate treatment plans. Armed with these treatment plans, a community outreach coordinator makes the connection to appropriate resources. The community outreach coordinator for CHART is Shannon Lundin, a Charlestown resident and staff member of CSAC, a community coalition supported by the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement. CSAC Director Beth Rosenshein said Mass General supports the role of community outreach worker for CHART. “This is a tremendous opportunity to engage people in successful recovery”
Lundin’s work with CHART is an extension of the work she has done for the past three years, making connections for Charlestown individuals and supporting their desire for sobriety. Attorney Joseph Perullo of Revere has high praise for Lundin. “Ms. Lundin can reach my clients in a way that can be profound and personal because of her own personal experiences, her relationships, and wisdom she has developed through her work with the community,” he said.
CPO Michelle Williams of the Probation department agreed. “Shannon has been a strong advocate for the treatment needs of her clients. In the past she has always lent assistance to any offender seeking help. In effect, drug court is a formal declaration of the supportive relationship that has existed for years between the court and CSAC,” she said.
CHART began operating late last year. Municipal Court First Justice Lawrence E. McCormick sentenced a young Charlestown man to treatment after the client agreed to have his case handled in the Drug Court Session in the Charlestown Division of the Boston Municipal Court. Today this young man is clean, sober and employed.
1 See www.nij.gov/nij/topics/courts/drug-courts/madce.htm for more information on NIJ’s Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation.
About the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI)
CCHI www.massgeneral.org/cchi carries out its work in Chelsea, Revere, and Charlestown, where MGH has maintained healthcare centers for more than 40 years, as well as in Boston among youth, homeless persons and seniors. CCHI has partnered with the communities it serves to assess needs and create more than 38 programs that:
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