The 6th Judicial District Treatment Court celebrated its first two graduates on Friday at the Blue Mountain Community College Bob Clapp Theater with approximately 100 guests and letters of congratulations from Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.
Stasia Farr, 28, and Alaska Koski, 29, both successfully completed the 16-month program for individuals who have committed drug-related crimes and struggle with substance abuse.
“It’s an intense program,” trial court administrator Roy Blaine said. “It’s work for the defendants. It’s probably one of the most intensive things they’ll ever do. It’s intensive for the justice system, but in the long run it makes our community better.”
The program was established in August 2018 and runs on a combination of federal and county dollars from Oregon’s Justice Reinvestment initiative, totaling $800,000 each two-year budgeting cycle.
“By providing this treatment program, we’re serving people who don’t need to go to prison because we can meet their needs,” Blaine said.
The program’s creation followed the dissolution of a similar program called Umatilla County Drug Court in 2017, which was put to an end following a drop in state funding.
Farr and Koski each successfully created individual graduation projects.
According to Blaine, Koski designed a mindful basket-weaving class in coordination with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, while Farr helped develop a local program for those dealing with narcotic addictions.
But before they could cap off their time in treatment court with that level of community involvement, Blaine said, they moved through multiple phases of outpatient treatment, drug testing, weekly court sessions and community support groups.
When treatment court was still being developed in 2018, Blaine said the 6th Judicial District selected Community Counseling Solutions after a request-for-proposal process, to provide addiction treatment.
“We’ve deeply appreciated the services they’ve provided,” he said.
Defendants going through the program work in collaboration with multiple other agencies as well, including the district attorney’s office, Intermountain Public Defenders and the Hermiston Police Department.
“It’s less formal than it would be in a usual courtroom,” Blaine said.
Hermiston attorney Heidi Van Kirk originally served as an active judge for the courtroom, but due to other work commitments Blaine said that now circuit court judges of the 6th Judicial District are presiding over individual cases instead.
Currently, 22 people, not including recent grads Koski and Farr, are working through treatment court.
“Some of them have been in the program for more than the projected 16 months,” Blaine said. “It’s expected some will drop out along the way for good and bad reasons.”
He added that Treatment Court Coordinator Jillian Viles is looking for more defendants that could qualify for the program, in hopes of possibly bringing the number of participants up into the 30s.
“We haven’t quite made it there yet,” he said. “We’re expecting to have more people in Morrow County participating.”