Juvenile Drug Court (2006)
Mike Maryanov, Youth and Family Treatment Court Coordinator for Marion County since 2001, talked about Therapeutic Justice in Marion County at the Morning Unit meeting in May 2006. Youngsters who come before Drug Court have broken the law (but have not had a weapon or been violent) in addition to being addicted to a drug. Therapeutic Justice is intended to treat the underlying problems that brought young people to court so as to avoid detention and recidivism.
Mr. Maryanov explained that each youth attends drug treatment twice a week and meets with a parole officer (usually at school so the juvenile officer can work with the school’s guidance counselor) to keep school work up to date. Each youth must appear before the judge every week.
The Drug Court team is composed of the judge, Mr. Maryanov, three parole officers, a drug and alcohol counselor, a police officer and a court deputy (both of the latter in uniform). The youngsters learn that all of these adults–even a judge and police officers–care about them; that message is very important to most of the young people.
The team works to determine the reasons a youth uses drugs, for example, abuse or neglect at home, mental illness, lack of friends who don’t use drugs. The team helps each youngster identify the triggers that make him/her want to use drugs.
For young people it is not correct to say “drug of choice”; the correct terminology is “drug of availability.” Mr. Maryanov commented that the youths he sees in Drug Court think that everyone uses drugs because the youths with whom they hang out use drugs. Meth is a huge problem because of the physical and mental damage it does. Among other damage, meth causes depression, which creates a vicious circle of more meth use to relieve the depression. TOT (Ten on Tuesdays), a program for pregnant teens on meth, aims to reduce the number of babies born with meth in their systems.
The youths also participate in a Wellness Program (run by HOST) in which they focus on nutrition, sleep, communication, conflict resolution, and other skills for physical and mental health.
The Drug Court program tries to break the cycle of drug use by helping each youngster figure out what is special about him (who he is, what he is good at, etc.). The program also encourages the youths to become involved in their community. One assignment is to go to the library and check out a book. They don’t have to read it, but they learn that there is a library where they can borrow books and videos. Another assignment is to draw a community map to learn what is available in the neighborhood. “Do I live close enough to the Boys and Girls Club to attend?” For a girl who has been sexually abused, Mr. Maryanov will arrange for someone from the Women’s Crisis Center to meet her at a coffee shop to talk about what is happening to her and how to get away from it.
Mr. Maryanov said that Marion County needs foster homes for teenagers, but the limited money available is used for younger children who need foster homes. A parent support group is provided so parents can learn how to help their youngsters learn to organize their lives. This allows the youths to continue to live with their parents and also be successful in the program.
It takes nine months of treatment and two years of follow-up to destroy the urge to use meth. Although meth causes brain damage, the brain can re-wire itself to overcome the damage, but it takes a long time. Anti-depressants or other appropriate prescription drugs plus counseling (to help youths deal with the violence they’ve see or experienced) are needed to end addiction. Private health insurance covers too little treatment time, especially for meth addiction.
The Drug Court program (which is voluntary) lasts about a year. During this time each youngster establishes a positive support system. Graduates get their criminal records dismissed, which is a very important goal for most of the youngsters.
Research has looked at whether Drug Court graduates have stayed clean and has confirmed that the program is successful, which is why the 2005 Oregon legislature for the first time provided $2 million for Drug Courts throughout the state. The federal government is also providing funding now.
Marion County is working hard to prevent drug use by youths, but teens’ brains are still developing, and they don’t consider cause and effect. For example, a teenager who is shown a picture of a young adult who has lost his teeth due to the effect of meth addiction will think the toothless person is old and won’t get the message that “this could happen to me.”
Mr. Maryanov commented that advertisements, TV shows, and movies give the impression that all adults drink alcohol frequently. To counter those media messages, society needs to talk about how to drink responsibly and in moderation.