Why Kane County is changing the way it handles specialty courts
Kane County judges are changing the way specialty criminal courts are handled as they prepare to add a third such court.
Starting Feb. 1, one judge, one assistant state's attorney and one assistant public defender will be responsible for all three: the adult Drug Rehabilitation Court, a mental health court and the new military veterans court.
Associate Judge Marmarie Kostelny, who oversees the drug and mental health courts, told the judicial and public safety committee Thursday it makes sense since the issues dealt with in the courts often overlap.
She said she often finds that when drug court participants get a handle on their drug use, an underlying, untreated mental health issue is discovered; they may have been using illicit drugs to self-medicate. She expects the same when the veterans court receives its state certification and begins operating.
The judges, lawyers and coordinators for specialty courts undergo training and must meet state standards.
Kostelny will be the judge for all three courts.
The specialty courts are problem-solving courts; participants plead guilty to crimes and receive probation in exchange for reporting to court frequently and undergoing treatment.
The oldest is the adult drug court. There are 113 people participating, and 12 others have applied. Of the 47 people admitted in 2017, 38 had mental health issues, she said. Twenty participants had "significant" trauma histories, including surviving child abuse.
"The stories you hear are truly appalling," Kostelny said.
Twenty-nine people graduated from drug court last year, avoiding a combined 187 years in prison by doing so.
"It is a significant program. There is significant evidence of its success," Kostelny said.
She said heroin is involved in 45 percent of the cases, followed by cocaine (34 percent), prescription medication (12 percent) and marijuana (7 percent).
The mental health court -- formally named treatment alternative court -- began in 2006. It accepts people who can be treated with medication and a therapeutic program. Seven of 26 participants graduated in 2017.
The veterans court will be for honorably discharged veterans who need substance abuse or mental health treatment. They will have to be eligible to receive treatment from the federal Veterans Affairs Department, because the county won't provide the treatment.
Kostelny said a charitable group that supported the defunct juvenile drug court is changing its name and will support the specialty courts.
The Kane County Specialty Court Advisory Board will raise money to help pay for some of the items used as rewards for modifying behavior, such as gift cards.