Drug court, rehab are on horizon

Sheriff Buddy Grinstead received a phone call recently that hit home the need for rehabilitation options for drug users. The woman on the other end of the line wanted information about C.O.M.A., the recently formed group called Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse. She said she and her husband were meth addicts but that they wanted to quit.

Children's voices could be heard in the background, Grinstead said.

"They needed to know where to go," he said.

Currently no local options exist to rehabilitate drug users. But mem-bers of C.O.M.A are trying to change that.

A roundtable discussion Thurs-day night marked one of the group's first stabs at creating a drug court and organizing a local drug rehabilitation clinic.

Drug courts can be an offshoot of the legal system, dealing solely with drug-related crimes. The court can have its own set of regular players -- such as prosecutors, defense attorneys and a judge -- or it can work within an established court system. One of the aims of a drug court can be to press for sentencing that includes rehabilitation. It also can put cases on faster tracks than a traditional judicial system.

"I think that this could help (drug users) get help," said group memb of the group. "I think we would like to get both of these things (a drug court and rehabilitation) out at the same time. If we had an in-patient program with our current out-patient program, we might be more successful."

One option for a rehabilitation center may be at The Memorial Hospital after the new hospital is built. It's a topic C.O.M.A members plan to pose to TMH Board members at their next regular meeting.

The idea of forming a drug court received a nod from Chief District Judge Michael O'Hara, who handles district cases in Moffat County.

O'Hara said that cases involving meth use dominate the courts' dockets.

Still, drug courts can be created to cater to the jurisdiction it serves. Denver's drug court has its own judge and lawyers for both sides. But that would be overkill in Moffat County.

"A lot of these folks need immediate in-patient treatment," O'Hara said. "There's no denying that."

Currently, some people convicted of abusing drugs are sentenced to rehab centers on the Front Range, Grand Junction or Glenwood Springs.

But a rehabilitation center in Craig would easily garner enough clients to make the business a success, assured Shane Fuchs, a parole officer with the Department of Corrections. More people living in Craig are on parole than residents in the other that areas he covers of Routt, Rio Blanco and Eagle counties.

"I don't think people realize how entrenched (drugs have) become," he said. "It has become so common here. You see it in all walks of life."

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