BELLEFONTE — Centre County’s much-anticipated drug court got a boost from the U.S. Department of Justice with a $400,000 grant.
County commissioners on Oct. 3 announced the grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. It comes with a required 25 percent match and will be awarded over a three-year period.
Catherine Arbogast, assistant drug and alcohol administrator for Centre County, said in-kind staff work will likely cover the requirements of the 25 percent match.
Commissioner Michael Pipe credited Arbogast with much of the heavy lifting in organizing, writing and submitting the grant.
Arbogast said the grant funds will be used to support two staff positions: one in the probation office and another in the county drug and alcohol office.
The program, which is now slated for a January start, will have specific criteria for its first round of participants.
“Our plan is to begin with approximately 25 individuals who have substance-use disorders,” Arbogast said. “We are also specifically identifying individuals who have already been sentenced, already on supervision and are struggling with their addiction and meeting the requirements and satisfying those details. They are facing revocation, they are facing jail time as a result, and by offering them the drug court program we believe provides a therapeutic alternative and gets them through this patch of challenge that they're experiencing and gets them back to a sober and healthy lifestyle.”
President Judge Pamela Ruest said “We are thrilled to receive this grant. We've been working really hard. We have an amazing team who has been working for well over a year to get the court established.”
Ruest told The Gazette in April that only specific people would be targeted for the drug court. It’s not for drug dealers, or even first-time users who are caught by law enforcement. She said it would involve intermediate punishment program defendants, or high-risk users who keep coming back to court.
Participants will be tested three times per week and will be provided services to help reduce recidivism. They will have already been sentenced and serving probation or parole.