Therapeutic Courts emerged in the 1980s as the foundation of justice reform in efforts to reduce the growing cocaine epidemic. Therapeutic Courts are an intervention aimed to offer supervision, accountability and most importantly-treatment. Therapeutic Courts not only reduce recidivism, but they improve education, housing, financial stability and support for participants that are engaged. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, Therapeutic Courts refer more people to treatment than any other intervention and are proven to be more successful than traditional probation.
Pierce County District Court offers two Therapeutic Courts: Mental Health Court (MHC) and Veterans Treatment Court (VTC).
DART • Drug Addiction Reduction Team
Pierce County District Court Drug Addiction Reduction Team (DART) Court began in November 2016 after careful collaboration with county stakeholders to combat the opioid epidemic. The DART Court emerged to combat the opioid epidemic initially but the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) supports the initiative because research proves utilizing evidence-based practices to change behavior is more cost efficient and has better success rates at reducing recidivism than incarceration. From 2019 to February 2022, DART has had a 3% recidivism rate from those who have graduated the program. Recidivism refers to a person's relapse back into criminal behavior.
MHC • Mental Health Court
The Mental Health Court (MHC) is designed to have both intense accountability and encouragement by a team made up of a Judge, therapeutic court coordinator, prosecutor, defense attorney, case manager, probation officer, treatment agency and law enforcement officers who specifically work with the MHC participants.
The team works collaboratively to monitor, supervise and guide each participant. Based on their participation, we may be able to provide assistance with stable, clean and sober housing, education, employment, transportation and mental health concerns – they will not be alone in their recovery.
VTC • Veterans Treatment Court
Pierce County, Washington is home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the fifth largest military base within the United States. Pierce County also has a large population of individuals who have previously served in the U.S. military. Unfortunately, because of the many wars and conflicts in which our service members have served, some have a difficult time adjusting to life away from the military base. This difficulty in transition results in criminal charges placed against some veterans. Pierce County criminal justice stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs collaborated to determine how this “veteran” population could be better served.
The Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) is designed to assist those veterans who end up in the criminal justice system by providing them a structured and therapeutic arena to identify the root cause of criminal behavior and to provide treatment, life skills, and supervision to help overcome undesirable behaviors. VTC is not easy. It requires multiple court hearings and visits to probation officers, treatment providers, medical doctors, and counselors. If a veteran enters the program and follows what the court directs, chances are the risk of re-offending after graduation is significantly reduced.