DES MOINES, IOWA (October 4, 2022) — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller congratulated Clay and Dickinson counties for planning to use opioid settlement money to help launch an adult drug treatment court.
“This is a great model for other counties in using settlement money,” AG Miller said. “Drug courts can accomplish so many important goals, including reducing our prison population and costs and, most important, saving lives.”
Drug courts are specialized programs that divert non-violent offenders from incarceration and into treatment and rehabilitation. The programs include early, continuous, and intensive judicially-supervised treatment; mandatory periodic drug- and alcohol-testing; community supervision; and mental-health services.
Last month, the supervisors for each county approved the proposal. The counties received funding from the Department of Correctional Services for a new probation officer. Clay County Attorney Travis Johnson said the counties would use opioid settlement money to fill any gaps in funding.
Over the course of eighteen years, Iowa expects to receive $177.74 million from settlements with opioid maker Johnson and Johnson and the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors: Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. That amount will be split evenly between the state and counties and cities.
“Resources are now beginning to flow into the state from the settlements we’ve won, and we expect to reach settlements with other companies soon,” AG Miller said. “It’s a great idea for counties to pool settlement money together to have maximum impact.”
Money from the settlements must be used for opioid abatement, including prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office does not approve how local governments use the money. The settlement documents include a list of approved strategies.
How the drug court will work
Johnson is working with Iowa District 3A Judge John M Sandy, based in Spirit Lake, to set up the Dickinson/Clay drug court. He expects the court to have 25 to thirty cases at a time.
The program would be overseen by a community board, which could include experts in mental health and substance abuse.
“I’m excited about it,” Johnson said. “It will be really nice to have intensive probation in the community.”
When non-violent offenders meet the criteria for the drug court and plead guilty, they would be sentenced to drug-court probation instead of going to prison. Every week, participants would take a drug test and meet with a probation officer. They also would meet twice a month with the community board that would evaluate their progress.
If they violate the requirements of the program, they could go straight from the meeting to jail.
Johnson said the program should also save a substantial amount of money. He and Sandy cited statistics showing that the average cost to incarcerate an Iowan in prison is $106.69 a day, compared with $12.88 a day for drug court.
Drug court also is effective. Johnson and Sandy pointed to the 2nd Judicial District drug-courts in Marshalltown and Mason City, where more than 90% of participants consistently tested negative for drug use. In addition, 86% of the clients showed a reduction in their drug problem.
How to get help
AG Miller’s office has created a website dedicated to providing Iowans with a path to recovery from Opioid Use Disorder. IowaOpioidHelp.com directs Iowans to treatment centers and other resources across the state.