GOSHEN — Hiring a second case manager will allow the Elkhart County drug court to take on twice as many participants.
The Elkhart County Council approved the position Saturday, after Councilman Randy Yohn remarked that the court has exceeded all expectations in the eight months since it started. The Superior Court 4 program takes defendants whose addictions are identified as the underlying cause of their repeat offenses and walks them through four phases of treatment over 18 months.
The program includes addictions treatment, weekly meetings with a case manager and frequent drug testing, as well as requirements that they work or attend school full-time. Participants who successfully graduate could have their charges dismissed or reduced.
Participation has grown to 24 people, according to Judge Gretchen Lund. Some of them have been there since January and are beginning the second phase of the program, and some have only been there a week or two.
“The hope and the expectation is that we’ll see our first graduate next year at this time,” she said.
The coordinator who was hired to run the day-to-day operations, Tara Paiano, is also acting as the first case manager. Each case manager can only supervise as many as 30 people because of the close level of supervision involved, Lund said.
“Creating the position gives us the opportunity to continue to accept people into the program,” Lund said. “As of now, we have 24 participants in the program, so we want to put a cushion in so we can continue to grow.”
The new position will formalize the help that a probation officer has been lending the program and allow them to get the certification needed. The court has applied for a grant to fund the position and will learn in October if they will receive it.
Lund remarked that the level of interest in the program has been greater than expected. Adding a second case manager will allow the court to keep up with that a little better.
She said there have been more than 120 referrals to the county prosecutor’s office of people who are potentially eligible. Drug court staff have performed 60 assessments.
“It’s a rigorous process,” Lund said. “We want to make sure we get the right person in the program and provide the right service to them.”