Success story: Municipal Treatment Court selected as mentor program a 2nd time

2014-05-14T19:00:00Z 2014-05-15T06:41:04Z Success story: Municipal Treatment Court selected as mentor program a 2nd timeBy CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

For a second straight time, the Billings Adult Municipal Treatment Court will serve as a mentor court for other municipalities around the country.

Carolyn Hardin, the senior director for the National Drug Court Institute, delivered a plaque to the court Wednesday commemorating the beginning of their second three-year stint. 

The Billings Municipal Court won after applying for the honor in 2011, "and then they were nominated again," Hardin said in a speech to the crowd that filled the court chambers of Judge Sheila Kolar. "That's no easy feat."

As a mentor court, the Billings program hosts officials from other jurisdictions who aspire to have their drug court programs and gives them ideas on how to run their programs effectively. 

More than 2,800 municipalities in the United States have treatment courts.

"They get to help other courts from across the country," Hardin said. 

Closing her speech to the crowd of caseworkers, past and present participants and observers who had gathered, she said, "to those of you who are sitting in this court, I want you to know that you are in good hands."

For many, the program has been an important and successful asset in the community.

"Of all the people that we induct into treatment court, nine out of 10 graduate," said Sheila Stichman, drug court coordinator. 

Once a person is selected for the program, a comprehensive assessment is carried out which looks at all aspects of their lives. The program's facilitators address a participant's addiction as well as their mental state, and works with them on life skills, and helping them live a successfully without addiction. 

"It's a lot of work and a big commitment," she said. 

The program is also not a burden on tax-payers because the participants are not incarcerated. 

"We're very fortunate because we're doing this through grant-funded money," she said. 

In the end, the program pays off for everyone in Billings. 

"This program is not only to the participants to the community as well," she said. "We are catching them early, before they become felonies."

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