Juneau, Alaska (KINY) 25 people have attended the court in the past year and organizers say they rarely re-offend.
September is Recovery Month in Alaska for those battling addictions. The main goal is to bring awareness of addictions, the struggles people have, and fight stigmas and negative associations with addiction.
Mike Vanlinden is himself an alumnus of the therapeutic court. He is a counselor for JAHMI Health and Wellness. He said he was arrested for felony DUI and the arrest turned out for the best as it led him to a new career free of alcohol.
"I'm a person in long-term recovery. It made a big difference in my life to get sober. It has changed my entire families life. It is a community issue because it does spread out and affects the entire community in one way or another."
He said he realized he likes helping people. He got involved with an alumni group of therapeutic court. He realized that the program works. Afterward, he noted there must be follow up treatment.
"The group has been crucial for me. I've wanted to give back to those that helped me," he added. "You have wreckage in your past. It is a way to heal your past. People, when they graduate, tend to want to give back (to the community)"
The program has served 25 people in the past year. Coordinator Michelle Delkettie said very few re-offend and come back to court a second time. She went on to state that Alaska has 14 of these courts. Juneau also has a mental health court.
Delkettie said experts in the state realized that putting people in jail for drug and alcohol crimes was not a good strategy, "The solution is not to keep putting them back into jail. It is not treating the underlying issue. Problem-solving courts have been very successful across the country and Alaska has followed suit."
The therapeutic court is a jail diversion court. Clients are charged with felony drug or alcohol offenses. They must get substance abuse treatment, attend recovery meetings, appear in court for compliance hearings, work or be involved in a court-approved activity, undergo drug and alcohol testing and maintain sobriety.
The mental health court helps those diagnosed with a mental illness. They must undergo drug and alcohol testing and follow monitored case plans, "The court serves those that qualify for mental health services. They receive treatment that is appropriate. They also get housing, and get assistance with Medicaid, Medicare and social security," she added.