By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Shane Weimer, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, approaches one of two counsel tables in Drug Court on Sept. 30, slides a spiral notebook on top, and then walks to the other counsel table to take a seat. Now in his fifth month as a Scott County Drug Court participant, he’s a little worried because he missed a curfew. What will Judge Henry W. Latham II, say?
“How’s it going, Shane?” Judge Latham asks pleasantly. “Pretty good,” Weimer begins, although he appears tired and dejected. He reports that a friend had just died of a drug overdose. Drug Court team members express their sympathy. Weimer, a heroin addict and father of two, appreciates their concern and continues to report on his week which is also documented in the spiral notebook. He says he’s been working long hours to help remodel the former St. Joseph Catholic Church in Davenport into a conference center for One Eighty, a Christian organization that helps addicts like him and others in need. “I put in 11,000 square feet of hardwood floor in two days,” he says proudly.
Weimer is one of 19 active participants in Scott County Drug Court, which began in 2002. More than 190 people have been accepted into the program since its start and approximately 75 individuals have graduated, says Johnna Kay, Drug Court Officer/PPOIII. About half of the participants have a history of opiate usage. Heroin is an opiate that is plentiful, cheap, extremely addictive, and its use is causing a national crisis. More than 10,000 people died of heroin overdoses in 2014 in the U.S.
Drug Court takes a non-adversarial team approach in providing addicted offenders with an intensive and holistic opportunity (a minimum of 15 months) to recover from their addiction and avoid continued involvement in crime. Another goal is to provide a cost-effective alternative to incarceration through community monitoring and treatment-based services. The average per day cost for a Drug Court participant was $21.47 in Fiscal Year 2015, compared with an average per day cost of $93.61 for a prison inmate, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections. Scott County Drug Court team members are presiding Judge Latham; Probation Officers Johnna Kay and Bob Behm; Assistant County Attorney Joe Grubisich; Defense Attorney Garth Carlson; and Treatment Provider Nik Kerr of the Center for Alcohol & Drug Services, Inc.
Kay notes that the Diocese of Davenport’s Catholic Charities has been a longtime supporter of Drug Court. Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, has mentored participants and is working to encourage other volunteers to be mentors. Other partners include the Davenport Police Department, which provides a liaison; Vera French Mental Health Center; the Salvation Army; One Eighty; and Unity House, among others.
The Drug Court team assesses the risk and needs of individual offenders by providing a continuum of treatment services, supervision, rewards and sanctions. Potential participants must meet certain criteria for admission, the most important one being a willingness to commit to changing their lives. Weimer is at that point, even when the going gets tough. After summing up his week, which included his daughter’s health issue and a conflict with his children’s mother, he confesses, “I’m just wrecked. I had a late curfew call Monday. No excuses. I’m done, spent.”
The Drug Court team acknowledges that his curfew violation requires a consequence. Judge Latham hands down a two-week suspended jail sentence; Weimer must spend one of those weeks confined to One Eighty. The judge and other Drug Court team members are quick to affirm Weimer for the progress he’s made these past five months and they encourage him to stay on track. “If things are going on, let the team know,” said Defense Attorney Garth Carlson. “Communication works a lot better!”
Other Drug Court participants and a prospective Drug Court candidate, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs, are in the courtroom, listening attentively. The open-court sessions provide an opportunity to hear other perspectives. “They can learn from other people’s mistakes. Maybe they can see themselves in that participant,” observes Kay, one of the two Drug Court probation officers.
After the jail inmate in the orange jumpsuit explains why he wants to be admitted to Drug Court, a young man in the audience, Dominic, raises his hand politely and receives Judge Latham’s permission to speak. “If you really want to change, it’s a good program,” the young man advises the inmate, Justin, who is charged with conspiracy to sell heroin. “There are so many people in here that will help you change. … If you go the extra mile, they’ll go the extra mile with you.” Dominic knows; he’s been there.
Kay says communities need to recognize the drug abuse crisis and reexamine the procedures for prescribing opiate pills, which are highly addictive and can lead some people to use heroin. At the same time, people need to support individuals who are struggling with drug addiction. “Recovering addicts need to be proud and to tell their stories and to educate people,” she says.
Asked what people in the pews can do to help, she advises: “Support our local treatment providers, contact your legislators, offer a hand to the person sitting next to you, and ask questions. Broach the subject. Provide an environment that is nonjudgmental.”
Weimer believes he’s found the combination that works — Drug Court, with residential placement at One Eighty where he’s engaged in Bible study and receives mentoring from house manager Chad Williams. “At night, before bed, I thank God for being able to stay sober one day at a time.”
Treatment options need to be explored based on the individual addict’s needs, says Johnna Kay, a certified substance abuse counselor and a Drug Court Officer/PPOIII. Treatment could be inpatient, outpatient, residential. It could involve methadone (a powerful painkiller used in heroin treatment), 12-step programs, and faith-based programs.
The Center for Alcohol & Drug Services, Inc. (CADS) offers the Country Oaks facility in Davenport. This facility has adult male and female residential beds for persons who have been evaluated and determined to be clinically appropriate for residential treatment, said Dr. Joseph P Cowley, president and CEO of CADS.
The Abbey, another treatment agency, is located in Bettendorf and has a facility that provides adult male and female residential treatment beds in addition to outpatient treatment services. UnityPoint Health-Trinity Riverside Alcohol & Drug Services program has adult male and female residential beds in Rock Island, Ill.
One Eighty in Davenport provides Christ-inspired service to people in need of help. People like Shane Weimer, a recovering heroin addict and father of two kids, ages 13 and 11. He was accepted into One Eighty’s residential program in collaboration with Scott County Drug Court. “We use a team approach,” says One Eighty founder Rusty Boruff. A three-member mentoring team of staff and volunteers is assigned to everyone who comes into the program, he said. The program takes anywhere from a year to 18 months to complete, depending on the participant. “We focus on people who want to change,” Boruff said.
Residential and outpatient treatment programs are available elsewhere in the diocese.
For additional support information, if a person is looking to help a family member or friend who lives elsewhere in the United States, the website www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov can be utilized to find programming for substance abuse treatment services in their friend or family member’s area.