Fri May 03, 2024

By Bren Yocom

Politics State

Boozman Column: Investments in Arkansas Treatment Courts Save Lives

Boozman Senator John Boozman
Boozman Column: Investments in Arkansas Treatment Courts Save Lives
Arkansans advocating for issues important to them regularly come to Washington to participate in Hill Day, a time to meet with their senators and representatives and encourage them to support their policy goals. The message I share with the groups meeting with Members of Congress is to personalize their visits with stories about how rules and regulations impact their operations and customers as well as how what they do enhances the community and improves their state. It's especially moving to hear from individuals who share their personal experiences to demonstrate the need for action and why their proposed solutions are warranted.

Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Thomas Smith administers the Benton County treatment courts, an initiative that offers drug-addicted, non-violent offenders an alternative to jail while rehabilitating them through a strenuous treatment program. The judge recently introduced me to Kyra, a graduate of the drug court.

Kyra said she tested the program, and when she saw the drug court staff believed in her, it gave her the confidence to believe in herself. This changed her outlook and ultimately helped her overcome her struggles with addiction and turn her life around. Now she’s inspiring others in Benton County on their own path to recovery. We can be proud of Kyra’s accomplishment and her continued leadership in the fight against drug addiction.

Judge Smith and Kyra’s stories highlighted the success of Benton County treatment courts and provided justification for enhanced investment. Arkansas is fortunate to be experiencing the benefits of this program. In Benton County the treatment courts have an 85 percent graduation rate. One graduate called it a “blessing” that can change your life.

For more than two decades, drug courts have proven effective in helping break the cycle of addiction. Nationwide, more than 4,000 treatment courts help 150,000 individuals annually. This approach has become a critical tool for the judicial system that is cost-effective and cuts crime, with data showing treatment courts have reduced crime by 58 percent.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend a drug court graduation. The optimism and pride on display from graduates and families is inspiring. It represents a turning point in a long journey, where the search for a solution once seemed hopeless – but treatment courts deliver a path for a brighter future. They help keep families together and break the generational cycle of addiction.

Throughout Arkansas more than 100 specialty court programs target drug and substance abuse for people of all ages and populations. This idea has expanded to veterans and mental health. Last year, the Arkansas Legislature approved allowing judges to establish family treatment. These courts provide treatment and accountability to parents with substance use disorders while prioritizing the well-being of their children.

May is recognized as National Treatment Court Month. This is a time to highlight the positive impact this alternative approach to drug and substance abuse has on our communities by leading people out of the justice system and into long-term recovery.

Changing the habits of Arkansans and guiding people like Kyra to a second chance at life through this commonsense method are great outcomes. Treatment court graduates are living proof there is still hope for those struggling to overcome addiction. I’m proud to advocate for resources that sustain and expand this critical program as it improves public safety, helps conserve taxpayer dollars and, most importantly, saves lives.