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Updated Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 3 PM EST

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42-1 Dist. Court proposes
drug court for local area

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Rehabilitation for drug and alcohol offenders could take on a new dimension in northern Macomb County.
       The 42-1 District Court of Romeo is in talks with county officials to have a drug/sobriety court established at the Romeo location in the 2014-15 year.
       State law defines drug courts as supervised treatment programs for individuals that abuse or depend on controlled substances or alcohol. They are meant to reduce substance abuse in non-violent offenders.
       Judge Denis LeDuc said the northern end of the county has no counseling facilities available for offenders in lieu of Macomb County Jail, so a drug and sobriety court would provide alternative rehabilitation.
       He said the issue with simply locking up offenders is that the cause of the problem remains unaddressed, whether it's drugs or alcohol, and once a person is back on the street they are likely to commit the same crime again.
       "It makes much more sense, and makes the most of public dollars and keeping people from that cycle of repeat offender," he said.
       Rather than turning to incarceration, the court would provide more intensive probation and offer counseling services through county facilities. LeDuc said grants could fund in- and out-patient care and counseling for those with no insurance.
       "Compared to incarceration, it's much more economical and much more effective," he said. "The track record now for drug/sobriety is a proven one."
       He said the operations would require more dollars and space in county budgets. He said Macomb County Circuit Court Judge John Foster and 42-2 District Judge William Hackel have expressed support for the idea. They are working on a proposal to place before county officials.
       The 42-1 District Court already provides on-site drug and alcohol testing and probation, which he said would increase with the new drug court. He said the consequences of not passing a test or violating a bond normally result in a walk down the hall to LeDuc's courtroom for jail time.
       LeDuc said he typically sees heroin users before him twice a week, while cases related to abusing opiates like Vicodin or Oxycotin are four to five times a week.
       "We've always seen alcohol-related cases, those are increasing, and drug-related cases are on the rise," he said.
       In addition, he said roughly 400 fatal overdoses occur in Macomb County each year, so the drug court would provide tangible and intangible savings.
       "There is a cost to the community you can't put a price on, like safety in the community," he said.
       There are 84 drug treatment courts in Michigan, 32 of which are adult drug, 23 are driving while intoxicated courts and 15 are juvenile drug courts.
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