A federal grant is helping Rockland County cover the costs of a new, special court created earlier this year to focus on misdemeanor-level drug crimes and help substance abusers get treatment.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe said $329,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice supports the program for the three years.
“A total of $329,504 over three years was obtained through the dedicated efforts of Judy Rosenthal, director of Fiscal and Program Operations at the District Attorney’s Office and the Education and Assistance Corporation," Zugibe said. "Under the grants, we have been able to launch and support our Misdemeanor Drug Court in the Village of Spring Valley, which has become a model for suburban prosecutors. We are leading the way by using this new approach to deal with the impact of alcohol and substance abuse related crimes in our community.”
Although the court is based at Spring Valley's Justice Court, it hears cases involving misdemeanor-level drug arrests from throughout Rockland County.
Zugibe said the grants were secured in a partnership between the District Attorney’s Office and Education and Assistance Corporation through the Justice Department’s Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program. The funding will be used for casemanagement, staff and support training, drug testing supplies, participant incentives, technology, office supplies and program evaluation.
Rockland County originally operated a Misdemeanor Drug Court, but it was taken over and moved to Rockland County Court to include felony cases by the New York State Office of Court Administration in 2003. The drug court provides an alternative for some drug offenders, with the focus on getting the offenders into treatment programs in hopes of preventing a repeat of their crimes.
Zugibe notes, however, that as the county's drug court focused on felony cases, there was no program for misdemeanor-level cases, which were handled in local town and village courts. He said the federal grant money was sought to specifically fund the new Misdemeanor Drug Court, allowing efforts to intervene with chemically-addicted, nonviolent low-level offenders before their addiction and criminal behavior worsen.
The New York State Office of Court Administration designated the Village of Spring Valley Justice Court as the hub court to hear eligible misdemeanor drug and alcohol cases from every Justice Courtin Rockland County. Village of Spring Valley Justice David Fried was identified through an application process to head the new Misdemeanor Drug Court.
“Drug courts have consistently proven their value, being one of most effectivealternative to incarceration programs available to defendants," Fried said. "This new funding will enable us to reach into all communities so we can strategically reduce crime and its spiraling to further and potentially more serious criminal acts. Addiction has tremendous negative impacts on our families, residents, and businesses. The key to a successful drug court is a strong commitment to addiction recovery, victim safety, and high levels of accountability on the part of every defendant.”
To participate in the Misdemeanor Drug Court, individuals who apply to the program undergo a criminal background check and a substance abuse assessment.
If participants fail to comply with the rules of the program, the court may impose sanctions including increased court appearances, county jail time and termination from the program.
Founded in 1969, Education and Assistance Corporation is a not-for-profit human service agency based in Hempstead, NY. With a network of 66 programs throughout Long Island, New York City and the Hudson Valley, Education and Assistance Corporation helped more than 62,000 people of all ages in 2011.
The Education and Assistance Corporation’s mission is to help children who have been physically or sexually abused, senior citizens needing support, people struggling with substance abuse and/or mental illness, youth in the foster care system, person son public assistance seeking financial independence, adults and youth who are under or unemployed, individuals needing help to mediate disputes and families in crisis.
In Rockland County, Education and Assistance Corporation has provided training, financing and other support for several programs, including Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities and case management for the Drug Treatment Alternative to Incarceration Program since 2000.