The Denver Post
Colorado's young people rank among the top 10 states with the highest rates of illicit drug use in the past month, cocaine use in the last year, and have the least perception of risk associated with having five or more drinks once or twice a week.
Leading the charge in Colorado, particularly during the months between November and April, is Summit County. Each ski season, young, single seasonal workers and vacationers from around the world ascend the hill to "Colorado's Playground" to spend a week or a season letting loose and getting high.
Breckenridge revels in its reputation as the skiing world's best party town. For the people who live there and raise kids there, it can be a challenge to promote a healthy lifestyle regarding drug and alcohol use when getting messed up is ubiquitous and nearly normalized.
As a result, alcohol and drugs find their way into the high school — and not just marijuana, but hard drugs like cocaine, LSD, ecstasy and more. In a small informal poll of the high school students I work with, I was told that the drugs that end up in our students' hands come from young men and women who move here to exploit the winter market.
A lot of people come to Summit County for a year or two to "live the lifestyle," and while they're at it, more than a few overdo it.
When they do, they often end up in jail. If the initial arrest doesn't scare them and they continue to engage in the addictive use, they usually end up in front of the judge again. Some get to go the drug court route. Still others sit in jail because of a lack of resources.
Drug court seeks to treat the addiction to reduce the crime and rehabilitate the criminal. It is an alternative to prison. Currently, there are more than 2,500 drug courts in the U.S., including 24 in Colorado.
There are eight participants in the year-old Summit County drug court. For all eight of the young men, it is literally their last stop before prison. To participate in drug court, they have to volunteer to do so, be a resident of Summit County, and meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual criteria for chemical dependency. Sex or violent offenders are not admitted.
Drug court is necessarily difficult and demanding. Participants are in the program for 18 to 24 months. They receive sanctions that range from a verbal reprimand to jail or termination from drug court, depending on the seriousness, and incentives for compliance. They are rewarded immediately for good behavior. They work in the community in regular jobs, go to therapy up to as much as twice a day, meet their probation officer at least once a week, and are tested for drugs and alcohol randomly, leaving time for little else.
Good behavior means 100 percent compliance in the two weeks between drug court sessions. The eight young men in drug court are held accountable by the drug court team in four areas: participation, probation, drug testing, and therapy.
of the band Phish, a drug court graduate and now a national spokesperson, said, "When I was in it, it was very hard and I was not a huge fan." Now, he credits drug court for giving him his life back. He even wrote a thank you note to his arresting officer.
The Summit County drug court team is made up of the judge, the district attorney, a probation officer, a public defender, someone from the sheriff's department, and a representative from the treatment facility. "It's a collaborative effort. Everyone plays such an integral part," said drug court Judge Karen Romeo.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
The Denver Post