Committee kills plan to replace drug court in Bangor

Posted Feb. 06, 2012, at 7:15 p.m.
Rep. Sara Stevens
Rep. Sara Stevens

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would have created a program to replace the Penobscot County Drug Court died Monday when members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended it not be sent to the Legislature.

“The committee sees the need for a drug court in Bangor and understands the problem we’re facing in Penobscot County,” Rep. Sara Stevens, D-Bangor, who sponsored the bill, said Monday night. “They didn’t see this plan as the best vehicle to get something up and running.”

The drug court, based at Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, stopped accepting clients in October after it was announced funding would be eliminated when the new fiscal year begins July 1, 2012. Money from the Bangor-based program will be transferred to the Co-occurring Disorder Court, also called the mental health court, in Augusta, Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the court system, said in October.

Stevens said Monday that members of the committee recommended getting together with stakeholders in the county after the legislative session ends this spring.

“They were very supportive and want to keep the discussion going,” she said. “I’m very grateful for their hard work on this issue.”

If passed, LD 1701 would have created a program for drug users similar to the one in place for drunken drivers.

The plan outlined in the bill would have required that an individual charged with a civil or criminal violation of the state’s drug laws undergo a mandatory assessment for substance abuse at his or her own expense. That evaluation would be similar to the postconviction evaluation offered in the Driver Education and Evaluation Programs, or DEEP, administered by the Office of Substance Abuse in the Department of Health and Human Services.

DEEP is required by state law for some offenders convicted of operating under the influence. It is a weekend program where people convicted of drunken driving undergo a risk assessment for reoffending and are educated on the risks of driving while intoxicated.

Penobscot County Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts, who has been a member of the Penobscot County Drug Court team for 10 years, last year reviewed the proposal to fill the gap created by the decision to defund the drug court.

Roberts called it “well intentioned but not very realistic.”

The prosecutor has been critical of the decision to defund the court.

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