Zionsville Times Sentinel

February 12, 2014

Courts take aim with diversion program

Zionsville Times Sentinel

---- — LEBANON — A program designed to aid individuals with mental health or addiction issues is being implemented in Boone County courts.

Prosecutor Todd Meyer, Circuit Court Judge J. Jeffrey Edens, and Kari Ragsdale, executive director of Boone County Community Corrections, announced the Forensic Diversion Program in a joint letter.

The primary focus of the program is to reduce recidivism of addicts and/or those with mental health issues and providing the treatment they need, Meyer said.

Only defendants who have been charged with nonviolent, nondrug-dealing crimes will be accepted into the program. The prosecutor, a defense attorney or a judge may recommend the forensic program for a defendant.

If accepted, the individual would pay $25 a month, plus the cost of drug testing if necessary, to undergo an 18-month minimum of counseling sessions.

Those who have been convicted, or who are charged with, qualifying crimes are eligible for the program.

Charges will be dismissed against people who complete the program prior to a trial. Convicted defendants will have the chance to avoid additional jail time if they successfully complete the program.A rise in crimes, and the drug-overdose deaths of 13 county residents, was the impetus for the program, Meyer said. Drug cases being heard in Boone courts have increased 150 percent, he said. “Many of these individuals continue to commit crimes and/or violate probation due to their addictions and/or struggle with mental health issues,” he said.

Drug use also is a factor in some burglaries, thefts and other cases, according to Meyer. Burglary cases have increased 294 percent, and theft cases 145 percent, since 2009.

Officials hope the program will reduce the number of defendants with addiction or mental health issues who are arrested.