DES MOINES, IOWA (December 9, 2019) — The Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the Iowa Judicial Branch a three-year, $500,000 grant to establish uniform standards for Iowa’s adult problem-solving courts and to implement a long-term strategy to create a statewide system of support and accountability. Implementation of the strategy began with the recent hiring of a Statewide Problem Solving Court Coordinator. The strategy also includes the development and implementation of standard data-collection and performance-measurement policies and the formation of an Iowa problem-solving court-professionals association that will provide training, create opportunities for collaboration, and assist in the implementation of best practices.

“Although this grant focuses on adult problem-solving courts, every participant served in all 38 Iowa problem-solving courts, including those serving juveniles and families, will benefit from the statewide infrastructure developed through this project,” State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio said. “Having a problem-solving court-coordinator and uniform-standards for court operations will ensure fidelity to evidence-based practices proven to bring about successful outcomes for participants. It will also provide a means for distributing information statewide and collecting the data needed to develop and evaluate performance against established measures.”

Iowa currently has adult problem-solving courts operating in 18 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Adult problem-solving courts include adult drug courts, mental health/co-occurring disorders courts, adult hybrid OWI/drug courts, OWI courts, and veterans’ treatment courts. Problem-solving courts bring judges together with substance-abuse treatment professionals, attorneys, and private agency providers to form treatment teams to resolve the underlying problems of Iowans suffering from mental illness or substance abuse. Instead of going to prison, most problem-solving court graduates leave with a job, a support system, and a far greater opportunity to succeed in life.

“The judicial branch worked with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to identify needs and to assist with the establishment of performance measures to ensure a level of standardized statewide practice,” Nuccio said. “The NCSC needs assessment report included specific recommendations, to serve as a road map to implement evidence-based practices and standards, improve coordination, and advance long-term sustainability of Iowa’s problem solving courts.”

Dr Eric Howard will become Iowa’s first statewide problem-solving court-coordinator in early January. Dr Howard has served in public systems for 18 years in mental-health, specialty-treatment courts. and public education. He helped establish the first Veterans Treatment Court in North Carolina and served as the coordinator from 2015-2017. He is also an experienced trainer with criminal-justice professionals, government agencies. and public educators, specifically on issues related to equity, inclusion and implicit bias. 

Dr Howard received an Associate Degree in Science from Georgia Military College in 1995, a Bachelor of Social Work from Mars Hill College 2004, a Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina in 2005, and his Doctorate in Education, Leadership and Policy Analysis from East Tennessee State University in 2015. 

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. BJA provides leadership and services in grant administration and criminal-justice policy-development to support local, state, and tribal law enforcement in achieving safer communities. BJA supports programs and initiatives in the areas of law enforcement, justice information-sharing, countering terrorism, managing offenders, combating drug-crime and abuse, adjudication, advancing tribal justice, crime prevention, protecting vulnerable populations, and capacity-building.

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