Douglas County to launch drug court program on Thursday
photo by: Mike Yoder
A new court focused on helping people overcome substance abuse is set to begin operating this week.
Douglas County will launch its drug court on Thursday by taking referrals for the program, county officials told the Journal-World on Monday. Shannon Bruegge, who will serve as the drug court’s probation officer, said she was excited to get to work to help local residents.
“It’s been the most rewarding for me to see entire families or an individual’s life change,” said Bruegge, who has worked in community corrections for about 25 years. “We hope to help a lot of folks find a different way to live life and live at their fullest potential possible.”
The 16-month, four-stage program plans to accept 15 participants who have been arrested and charged with a nonviolent felony and are having difficulty staying drug free. Judge Kay Huff will preside over the court in addition to her standard Douglas County District Court duties.
Through the program, participants will follow an individualized treatment plan to address their addiction and then receive support to find jobs. The intensity and level of supervision, which includes random drug tests and meeting with a probation officer, decrease as participants advance through the program. Those who successfully complete the program would get their criminal charges dropped.
Douglas County hired Bruegge in 2017 for the launch of the county’s behavioral health court, which aims to reduce the number of people with serious mental illness in the Douglas County Jail and provide support to them. She said the county would find a replacement for her on the behavioral health court once the drug court is up and running.
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
Bruegge previously served as a probation officer for a similar drug court in Cass County, Mo., before she moved to Douglas County. She told Douglas County Commissioners in April that she “saw people’s lives transformed” by that program.
“I believe in recovery, and I believe that our community owes it to the people that can’t get out of the darkness on their own, and we need to be the light and be a resource,” Bruegge said at the time. “And if they stay with it, they won’t stay involved in the criminal justice system. It just goes hand in hand.”
Douglas County officials hope the drug court can be one of the solutions to overcrowding at the Douglas County Jail. Criminal Justice Services Director Pam Weigand said it was the newest local program to address that particular issue while also helping local residents overcome their addictions.
“That’s the goal; to try to help these folks with their addiction … and give them the option to get rid of those charges through the diversion of drug court,” Weigand said.
Other alternative-to-incarceration programs in Douglas County include the behavioral health court and the special women’s diversion program.
The Douglas County Commission provided $430,000 of funding in its 2020 budget to launch the drug court. The commission and the drug court team will discuss the new program during a work session on Jan. 8. The drug court team consists of county staff, representatives from local criminal justice and law enforcement agencies and the county’s community partners.
Weigand said the discussion would focus on the work the drug court team has conducted in recent months in preparation for the launch and what the policies and parameters of the program would be.
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