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Oklahoma County Receives Award from ODMHSAS for Treatment Court Success and Graduation Rates

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is celebrating the Oklahoma County Treatment Court program, Judge Kenneth M. Stoner and the Oklahoma County Public Defenders and District Attorney’s Office for achieving an 83-percent graduation rate related to their drug court program.

Oklahoma County Treatment Court says it’s had 916 graduates since January 2016. They also estimate the program has saved the community $112,791,000 because it costs $19,000 per year to incarcerate someone, while Drug Court only costs $5,000 per person per year.

Many of the individuals who enter the program are identified as repeat offenders, have been involved in the legal system for years, and have either a high need for treatment or a high risk of addiction. As a result of entering the program, they have made enormous strides to reclaim their lives.

“We know that recovery is a journey,” said Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges. “People only get better when we give them the chance to heal and receive treatment. That means it might be the first, second or third chance they need to reach sobriety.”

The program focuses on providing “purple praise” which means encouraging participants as they take steps forward, celebrate lifetime achievements and focus on the positive.

“The people we serve often have either a high need for treatment, or are considered a high-risk population,” said Judge Kenneth M. Stoner. “Many of these individuals either have poor health, limited education, lack of income, minimal support such as close friends or family, or even a criminal background. A collective body of experts assesses defendants and helps guide them to treatment. They check in on them and guide them to success.”

“Oklahoma County has set a standard for treatment, within the legal framework,” said Commissioner Slatton-Hodges. “We are encouraged to see that a court is addressing a person, rather than the stigma associated with them.”

“These diversion programs are specifically designed to ensure public safety because they address the root cause of why certain individuals keep entering the criminal justice system,” said Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Zemp Behenna. “If we can get people treatment, services and stabilized, the data shows that the recidivism rates are extremely low for those that successfully complete a diversion program.”

Judge Sara Murphy Bondurant was also recognized for helping connect mental health consumers to care, rather than process them through the judicial system through a new CO-OP program that began in spring 2023. Already, over 140 low-risk and non-violent people have entered the program to have their charges dismissed, as long as they stay connected to treatment.

“We had tried another program in the past, but wanted to take our approach in a different direction,” said Judge Sara Murphy Bondurant. “I am extremely proud of the success CO-OP has already produced and know that success will continue and flourish as the program grows.”

ODMHSAS has awarded Oklahoma County with the award “Change Maker, 2023” for the consideration and care they afford to low-level offenders who simply need to be connected to treatment.

ODMHSAS Communications

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