How Michigan Drug Court Runs Amid Opioid Crisis

The Macomb County drug court is one of 127 in Michigan, up from 77 a decade ago. Participants are under supervision for 18 months on average, with many requirements to stay out of jail.

The Detroit Free Press tells the story of the Macomb County, Mi., drug court. It is one of 127 drug courts in Michigan, up from 77 10 years ago, their rise coinciding with the opioid epidemic and the record-breaking number of drug overdose deaths — 2,729 last year. If addicts are nonviolent repeat offenders, a magistrate, an attorney or a judge might refer them to drug court, where the object is to prevent them from committing more drug-related crimes and to save on incarceration costs by offering rehab and strict probation in lieu of prison. The approach makes sense, said Judge Linda Davis, who oversees the Macomb drug court and is a nationally recognized speaker.

Without treatment, they don’t change the behavior that landed them (in jail),” she says. “It’s like any other disease. If you took someone with diabetes and put them in jail, they’d still come out with diabetes. … Rather than wasting our resources by putting somebody in jail … if we took those same resources and put them into rehabilitation and recovery, we could actually turn people’s lives around and make them productive members of society.” Participants may stay in the court for up to two years, though most finish in 18 months; supervision is intense. In addition to regular court appearances, they must submit to random drug tests. They’re also required to meet with peer coaches and a therapist, attend a 12-step program or support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, keep a journal and do volunteer work. Judge Davis works a large network of contacts on behalf of people in her court. She is founder of Families Against Narcotics, a community group with 22 chapters that works to support addicts and families, and educate people on the danger of prescription medication.