Nebraska Drug Courts Expand in 2019, Mental Health Courts Possible in 2020

Jan. 1, 2020, 6:45 a.m. ·

(Image by Daniel Bone from Pixabay)

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Expanded problem-solving courts are set to begin operating in eastern Nebraska this week; it’s part of expansions to problem solving courts across the state in 2019.

Three new drug courts in the judicial district that includes Saline, Johnson, and Nemaha Counties opened in 2019. These problem solving courts take a treatment approach rather than a punitive one.

Statewide Director of Problem Solving Courts Adam Jorgensen says it’s a much more effective way to address drug crime in a community. And although he says some are still wary of supervised release instead of incarceration, that mindset is changing.

"I don't think there's always a great understanding by individuals of what individuals truly have to go through to successfully complete a problem solving court," Jorgensen said. "The requirements as far as treatment, programming in our reporting centers, chemical tests, appearing in front of a judge."

Jorgensen says many judges recognize problem solving courts are more cost effective and have better long-term outcomes.

New state funding for problem-solving courts came into effect on July 1. The state is also funding a new Veterans’ Treatment court in Judicial District 9, which includes Buffalo and Hall Counties.

Expanded capacity for courts in District 2 (including Sarpy County) and District 5 (including Seward County) will begin January 1.

Judges and other court staff go through training in partnership with the National Drug Court Institute before starting their own programs. And standards from the Nebraska Supreme Court ensure problem solving courts are consistent across the state.

Jorgensen says a Nebraska Supreme Court committee is working on standards for mental health and family dependency courts.

"In addition, there's also a DUI task force that is currently working at the direction of the problem solving court committee," he said.

And a statewide community committee is working on a problem solving court strategic plan through 2025.