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Drug Court Clients Benefit From Coercion

May 1, 2007
by root
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I read with great interest your articles concerning mandated treatment (November 2006 issue). What amazes me, and keeps on amazing me because of reader response in the January/February 2007 issue, is how so many treatment professionals refuse to accept the fact that mandated or coerced treatment actually does work. The old-school point of view that believes an addict must want treatment for it to be successful is a very outdated and uninformed point of view. Those who still believe it are living in the past.

I am involved on a daily basis with clients forced into treatment. In my position as program manager for a very successful adult drug court program in Aztec, New Mexico, I see the success of mandated treatment every day, and have been seeing it since May 1998. We have graduated nearly 200 clients since the program's inception, and recently because of heavy methamphetamine use in our area the program has expanded to include approximately 75 clients on the street with another dozen or so in residential treatment. Our cumulative recidivism rate for graduates since the beginning of the program (based on felony rearrests) is under 15%, so obviously something is working very well with mandated treatment. Of course, there are clients who go back to using and don't have contact with the judicial system; we aren't so naïve not to realize that.

There are many successful drug courts in our state and around the country, and most of them offer proof that mandated treatment does work. I guess you could say that drug courts show clients that they want or need treatment—maybe that would make treatment professionals with an outdated opinion of treatment feel more comfortable with mandated treatment. What we have come to realize is that if you can get an addict clean and keep him clean, he actually might enjoy being clean, and then with the tools given to him during the program he is willing and able to stay clean.

by Brad Ullrich, 11

th Judicial District Drug Court Program Manager, Aztec, N.M.