Drug Court to help half as many

EVERETT – She was an addict for 10 years.

Her drug of choice was methamphetamine, “and any other drug I could get a hold of,” she said.

Child Protective Services put her two children in foster homes and Celina Forget (pronounced For-Jay) lived in her car or wherever she could find a place.

When she was arrested for drug possession and faced jail and a felony record, she decided to do something about her life.

With the help of an intensive Snohomish County drug program commonly called Drug Court, the single mom put her life together, beat the addiction, got her kids back and is thriving with a job at a Lynnwood retail store.

Now, it’s likely that the number of people like Forget who can be helped by Drug Court will steadily drop.

The county’s judges have decided to reduce the number of people in the program from the current level of 150 to 75.

“Drug Court gave me the boundaries I needed to live life without illegal activity,” Forget said Tuesday. “Drug Court is the best thing that has ever happened to me as far as changing my life.”

The 34-year-old Marysville woman was required to undergo frequent drug testing and treatment, attend support group meetings and get a once-a-week report card from a Superior Court judge during Drug Court sessions.

The decision to gradually reduce the number of people in the program was not an easy one, said Judge George Bowen, who heads the Drug Court program. He acknowledges that a client load of 200 or 300 could be met if enough money were available.

The program has one full-time coordinator who works a big caseload, including initial interviews, with the help of an intern.

“With the departure of an unpaid intern earlier this year, we simply have no choice but to reduce the number of active participants so we can operate within available resources,” Bowden said May 7 in a letter announcing the freeze on new participants.

In an interview, he said, “It became very apparent that we were working our coordinator into the ground.”

He’s not the only one disheartened.

“I’m very upset by it because a lot of people who want to get in (Drug Court) won’t be able to get in now,” said Marybeth Dingledy, a public defender who participates and represents those enrolled.

“It’s bad news because there are a lot of people who would benefit from the program in a number of ways – by getting their lives back on track, by keeping a felony off their record, by creating a future for themselves,” Dingledy said. “Now they don’t have a chance.”

A deputy prosecutor, Tim Geraghty, who also monitors Drug Court participants, said there’s a big need for the program. Participants are much less likely to commit a crime to get money for a quick fix.

“I feel bad for the people who want treatment and kind of need the carrot of Drug Court to convince them to become clean and sober so they become contributing members of society,” Geraghty said. “Here’s a program that works, and there’s a need for it.”

It does work, Bowden said.

Of the 257 people who have graduated from the program over the years, only 17 have committed new crimes, about a 94 percent success rate.

The judges made getting a second coordinator an emphasis in last year’s county budget request, but the money was cut. Bob Terwilliger, court administrator, said the judges will make another attempt this year to get additional funding from the Snohomish County Council.

At the least, Bowden said the second coordinator again will be a priority in the 2008 budget request.

It costs the county an average of $7,350 for each participant over a 17-month program. The program is supported through county, state and federal money.

In the long run, Bowden said, the program saves a lot of money in prosecution and incarceration. There are intangible benefits, too, such as saving the cost of criminal acts on the street, getting people off welfare and having them earning a living and paying taxes.

Those now who have signed up for the program – about 60 or 70 – will be able to continue. It may take a year or more to get down to the goal of 75 through successful graduations or people dropping out or being kicked out.

Graduate Forget said Drug Court helped her develop positive habits, ones she’s trying to pass on to her two children.

“It’s discouraging that they don’t have the funding for 300 people because that’s 300 people not out in the community committing crimes,” Forget said. “I learned to think before I act. It gave me a reason to stay off drugs.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

A semi-truck rolled over blocking all traffic lanes Thursday morning on I-5 north just south of Arlington on Sept. 21, 2023. (Washington State Patrol)
Overturned trailer spills fish onto I-5 near Arlington, closing lanes

The crash blocked all lanes, forcing drivers going north during rush hour to use the left shoulder.

The Marysville Municipal Jail is pictured Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Marysville weighs mandatory jail time for repeated ‘public disorder’

The “three strikes” proposal sets a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for crimes like public drug use and trespassing.

Everett police on patrol heard gunshots near 26th Street and Lombard Avenue and closed off multiple roads as they investigated on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Everett Police Department)
3 teens arrested after gunfire in downtown Everett

No one was injured. Police heard gunfire in the area of 26th Street and Lombard Avenue.

It’s time to celebrate and say thanks

Local journalism — and community support — will be the stars of Behind the News Stories on Oct. 24 in Edmonds.

Most Read