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Deschutes County Dissolves Drug Court

BEND, OR -- After more than two decades, Deschutes County’s Drug Court is ending. It provided drug offenders with court-supervised treatment. District Attorney Steve Gunnels is disappointed, "I was the prosecutor who was originally part of the planning process, and I have been the drug court prosecutor now for 23 years."

He tells KBND News dissolving Drug Court wasn't a choice anyone wanted to make, "That’s really a result not of a decision by the court to end the program; although, ultimately, that’s the decision they had to make. It’s a decision that was based on the fact that we could not find a treatment provider for the participants in the drug court program, or a coordinator." Gunnels says the coordinator position was lost when the salary offered was not enough for someone from out of the area to find housing. And, past treatment providers are no longer available, "The rules about what has to be offered by the treatment provider have been very stringent and nobody in Central Oregon is capable of meeting all of those standards at this time." 

He says many offenders took part over the years, "Typically young people who have drug addiction issues and children, and try to get them turned around, get them into drug and mental health treatment and parenting classes. They have to stay clean and sober, they have to get a job and they have to reestablish their relationship with their children, which is oftentimes the motivating factor." And he considers the program a success, "Some people have had their lives turned around from really miserable paths that they had chosen with their drug addiction, and they are now productive members of society who are raising their children and living good lives."

Drug offenders will now only be prosecuted in the traditional way, and a judge could order treatment as part of a sentence or settlement. Gunnels hopes the re-start the program in the future. 

Visit our Podcast Page to listen to our full conversation with Deschutes County DA Steve Gunnels. 

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