DA, Partners Help Drug-court Defendants Get to Their Hearings
LOWELL -- The drug court defendants trudged out of their homes in Quincy, eyeing a brutal, expensive commute on multiple trains and buses to Lowell.
If they didn’t make it all the way up north, the defendants -- placed far away from drug court, in sober houses where treatment beds are available -- would risk violating their probation.
Many of these individuals simply couldn’t make it to their weekly drug court appearances, local officials began to realize.
As a result, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office partnered with area groups to solve this transportation barrier for those in drug court -- a special session when judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, police and social-service workers team up to work with defendants on probation whose crimes were motivated by substance abuse.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI) and Greater Lowell Community Foundation recently launched a first-of-its kind partnership to provide transportation to individuals to and from drug court.
“This public-private partnership to get people to successful recovery is something we should replicate across the state,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said at CTI in downtown Lowell last week.
Last year, CTI received a $10,000 grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation to help start the pilot program, which began in October. With CTI buses, they’re providing transportation for defendants from Quincy, Boston and Lynn sober houses.
This partnership is the capstone of a multi-year commitment to fund programs for opioid prevention and treatment in the area, said Greater Lowell Community Foundation President and CEO Jay Linnehan.
“People want to do recovery, but they can’t get from point A to point B,” he said.
“This is a very small investment for a very large return,” Linnehan added.
CTI recognized that its transportation department, which brings children to and from school, had flexibility to use drivers and vehicles during the school day to respond to other community needs.
With the $10,000 grant from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, CTI is deploying drivers and vehicles to fill this transportation need for drug court.
“This is one of the pieces that we could see falling through and inhibiting someone from completing their treatment,” said CTI Executive Director Karen Frederick. “We thought if we could do this, we could also connect people with other resources that they need.”
Often, these defendants are in need of other basic services that CTI can provide, such as housing, financial literacy and childcare.
Through this pilot program, employees from CTI -- working with the probation officials and social workers -- can identify what the defendants need.
“We could not have taken this novel approach without the help of this grant from GLCF,” said Meghan Siembor, CTI’s director of Child and Family Services.
CTI’s Resource Center staff observes the drug court session and works with the drug court clinician to offer additional resources for participants.
For example, an individual in the program was behind on rent, and CTI helped with back rent. That lowered the stress for the individual, so they could concentrate on sobriety and the program requirements.
“It’s about connecting individuals to additional supports and wrap around services as they focus on the importance of program requirements,” said JoAnn Howell, director of CTI’s Resource Center.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office often uses numbers and percentages to measure their success, but they never lose sight of the fact that this is about one person -- somebody’s child, somebody’s brother or sister, Ryan emphasized.
“If four people over here can’t make it to drug court, we are successful if we can get those four people there,” she said. “This is really an amazing example of how things should work, with resources coming together, and we’re all going in the same direction, which is to help people be successful.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.