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August 26th, 2019

drug court feature photoSeward County Coalition of Addiction Treatment Services members Don Witzke, left, and Cristy Mulanax, center, listen to some of the discussion regarding the formation of a local drug court Tuesday afternoon at the coalition’s meeting at City On A Hill. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Southwest Kansas sees its share of repeat drug and alcohol offenders.

In 2018, to help with this problem, the Seward County Coalition of Addiction Treatment Services (SCCATS) was created as the brainchild of conversations between officials with City On A Hill and other community members.

Recently, the coalition, with the help of Liberal Municipal Court Judge Jason Maxwell, created another program to help curb the repeat offender numbers with a drug court.

City On A Hill Facility Program Director Charissa Bradford said Maxwell is putting together the program to deal with not only repeat offenders in the realm of alcohol and drug use, but also theft and minor possession charges.

“He’s trying to set up the drug court to help the community of Liberal,” she said. “He’s partnering with the coalition here to  see where we can come in to help him, whether that be for treatment, evaluations, drug and alcohol evaluations or with different classes, programs, peer mentoring, to help these clients who are coming through who are repeat offenders.”

Bradford said the drug court deals with mental health issues as well, and she explained the connection between mental health and other treatments the court will provide.

“Usually when you have a repeat offender for drugs or alcohol, there’s usually some type of mental health background,” she said. “We would focus on that and their treatment. It would be a minimum of 18 weeks varying on the participation of the client or the offender. They would get tested with alcohol and drug tests a few times a week.”

Bradford said this keeps clients accountable to the program.

“It’s to help them,” she said. “You would want to give them positive feedback or any type of rewards when they are doing good.  They eventually will graduate, but this is going to be a lengthy process to help them through here.”

Bradford said Maxwell will eventually run statistics over six-month periods to see how well the drug court is working.

“As a coalition, we’re going to help them in any way we need to, whether it be for treatment, whether it be for housing, whether it be for employment, whatever it is we can help them with,” she said.

Bradford said at this time, the drug court is already up and running.

“We’ve started the first process where they go to court and they’re recommended evaluation for drug or alcohol,” she said. “Now, we’re just going to figure out the treatment part of it and the benefits to the defendant and the entry into the program. Once we get that figure out, we’ll know more. They’ll have some type of employment help, housing help.”

With many repeat offenders and a lack of similar programs in Western Kansas, Bradford said a drug court is definitely needed in the area.

“Just here at City On A Hill, we see people coming back who have had maybe one DUI, and you’ll see them come back for a second DUI because they’re not wanting to get the help,” she said. “They’re not ready to quit. The sad thing is something could happen if they don’t get the right treatment.”

Bradford gave one example of a case in which the drug court could prove useful.

“Somebody who’s 36 years old, she has a theft charge on her, and she’s never had any other charges,” she said. “That’s stuff the court will look at. Here’s somebody who’s never had any kind of charges against then and all of a sudden, she’s 36 and she has a theft charge. She decides to start using meth. It’s out of the norm, so there’s also mental health factors going on in that situation.”

One of the hopes Bradford said local rehab leaders have for the drug court is to help people understand it is needed due to the constant flow of people in and out of centers such as City On A Hill.

“Whether it be theft or it be DUI or it be possession of different drugs or paraphernalia, it seem to keep happening, and the court system keeps seeing them come back and come back and come back,” she said. “Something like this is definitely needed for the municipal court, and it would be good if the district court had it as well.”

Bradford said she also hopes the local drug court is just the start for similar help in Western Kansas.

“We’re hoping it’ll open it up to more drug courts in this area,” she said. “Honestly, the program itself does help the clients. It helps those offenders. We’re hoping Garden City will see it, or Scott City or Dodge City will see what we’re trying to do. At City On A Hill, we get clients who come in from different counties around here.”

SCCATS is made up of leaders from local agencies like Cimarron Basin Community Corrections, Juvenile Correction and Prevention Services, along with Bradford and City On A Hill President Chris Lund.

Bradford said she is confident both the coalition and the drug court will make a significant impact on the area’s rehab industry.

“It’ll take some time, but I really think with the different agencies working together, we’ll be able to make an impact on all the clients who come here,” Bradford said.

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