Oklahoma Drug Courts Help Destigmatize Mental Illness and Addiction

As a therapist, I have taken note of recent discussions about programs and services available in our community to help people struggling with addiction or mental health issues. Many want to see better and more robust treatment options available at all levels, and drug court should be part of that conversation.

Support for mental health and addictions programs does not have to be in opposition to programs offered to people involved in the justice system, but I have noticed that it is often framed that way. It is important to reduce the stigma associated with substance use and mental health disorders, and this is especially true for those who are also involved in the justice system. As a service provider for the Oklahoma County Drug Court, I have seen how the court helps fulfill this role in our community.

In a recent conversation with a client, I was discussing how substance use impacts the brain and interferes with its ability to function normally. After months of working with them to help counteract their belief that they are just a “bad person”, I finally saw a moment of realization on their faces. This kind of ah-ha moment isn’t exclusive to drug court participants, but it’s a common step for many on their journey to recovery. We can help them overcome their substance use.

Jordan Todd is a therapist with HOPE Community Services and a liaison with the Oklahoma County Drug Court.

Drug court is not for everyone struggling with drug addiction, but as Judge Kenneth Stoner, the presiding drug court judge and DUI in Oklahoma County, likes to say, “Anyone who should be in drug court should be in drug court.”

Continued: Viewpoint: Oklahoma drug court offers hope for better life while protecting public from harm

Instead of sending people to jail, treatment courts provide structure and support.

The Oklahoma County Drug Court team works constantly to encourage and support participants’ treatment efforts. In addition to the overwhelming compassion of Justice Stoner and his team, they recognize that participants need individualized, evidence-based behavioral health and substance abuse treatment to be successful.

Most people know that drug court has several requirements, such as mandatory court attendance and frequent drug testing. It is sometimes viewed negatively because of the court’s ability to impose penalties. In fact, the structure and accountability provided by drug court, combined with evidence-based treatment, promotes successful rehabilitation and long-term recovery while keeping people out of jail.

Nationally, the drug court completion rate is nearly 60%. Oklahoma County Drug Court has an 83% success rate and nearly 900 people have successfully completed the program since its inception. There is evidence that those who successfully complete the program have lower re-arrest rates and are more likely to achieve successful recovery than incarcerated individuals.

Every day, drug court therapists work with clients to give them the tools and skills they need for daily living. We help them understand their substance use, develop relapse prevention plans, and gain the confidence and stability to succeed in our community. The treatment we provide is an essential part of the drug court program. Drug court holds people accountable and treatment helps them thrive.

Jordan Todd is a therapist with HOPE Community Services and a liaison with the Oklahoma County Drug Court.

Graduation celebration

Oklahoma County Drug Court will host a celebration for its recent graduates. Community members are welcome.

When: 5:45 p.m. on April 5.

Or: Frontline Church in Oklahoma City.

More information: www.okcountytc.org.

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