As with adults, crime and drug abuse among juveniles remain inextricably linked. Four of every five children and teens arrested are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while committing crimes, test positive for drugs, are arrested for committing an alcohol or drug offense, admit having substance-abuse and addiction problems or share some combination of these characteristics, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
Clearly, the combination of drugs and crimes can ruin a young person’s life and health long into adulthood. That’s why it’s encouraging to witness a proliferation of programs that target that destructive mix.
In the Mahoning Valley, one of the newest such programs is the Trumbull County Juvenile Drug Court, planning for which is nearly complete. Sandra Stabile-Harwood and Pamela Rintala, Trumbull juvenile court judges, hope to have the program up and running by April.
As in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court’s drug court for adults, the youthful offenders will report once per week. In the drug court, they will talk to substance-abuse and mental-health counselors, a Trumbull County Children Services representative, a probation officer and the juvenile court magistrate. The intensive counseling will last one year, and program participants will be subject to random drug screens to hold them accountable.
It also will be similar to the adult drug court in that those who successfully complete the program will have the offense that brought them to juvenile court removed from their record, thereby removing a stain on their record that could haunt them throughout their lives.
We’re confident that juvenile drug court can achieve success similar to its adult counterpart. The adult drug court, which includes partnerships with the community’s drug and alcohol treatment agencies, has produced noteworthy results in ridding participants of their addictions, in greatly lessening their tendency to commit new offenses and in saving taxpayers great sums of money in incarceration costs.
As a matter of fact, when juvenile drug courts use a wide range of non-detention-based sanctions, they can experience cost-savings as high as $5,000 per participant, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Its study on juvenile drug courts also found significant correlation between program success and parental involvement.
Such involvement will be a core requirement and philosophy of the new Warren-based court. “So many of the young substance abusers have parents who have substance- abuse problems, too, so we need to break that cycle, too,” Judge Rintala said, adding that parents will receive counseling as well.
The opening of the drug court comes none too soon. As the heroin epidemic in the Mahoning Valley and the nation snares in more and younger victims into its oftentimes deadly trap, the inception of the newest and needed specialized court in Trumbull County holds great promise to restore order in the lives of scores of troubled and drug-dependent young people.