10.09.08

2 Grants Secured By Senator Leahy Will Bolster Vermont’s Anti-Drug Efforts

ounter drug trafficking and to help break the cycle of drug crime and violence.  These efforts were examined earlier this year in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that Senator Leahy (the panel’s chairman) brought to Rutland.

 

Senator Leahy, also a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, secured these funds in the Justice Department’s FY 2008 budget bill.  They are now being released to Vermont.

 

VERMONT DRUG TASK FORCE:  $951,434

 

These funds will be used for the Task Force’s initiatives against illegal drugs and the constantly developing trends that affect drug crime.  This new funding is vital to continuing this progress and to dismantle organizations and arrest individuals who traffic illegal drugs across Vermont’s borders and throughout the states.  The bulk of the discretionary funding will allow for the continuation of funding for Vermont State Police troopers within the Task Force and allow the continued employment of drug chemists within the Vermont Forensic Laboratory.  These new funds also will allow the Task Force to continue to support additional undercover state troopers and municipal officers, an additional drug prosecutor, a civilian drug intelligence analyst and a business administrator.  Without additional funds, the Task Force would not be able to continue its heightened efforts in combating heroin abuse, methamphetamine and other illegal drug use and trafficking.

 

BACKGROUND:  Between FY 2001 and FY 2008, Senator Leahy has secured roughly $7.25 million in funding for the Vermont Drug Task Force.  Due to recent changes in the formula and funding levels of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program -- traditionally the main source of Federal support for a broad range of State and local law enforcement activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system -- Vermont’s state allocation under the Byrne Grant program has fallen considerably.  The funding Senator Leahy has specifically secured for Vermont’s task force is now its major funding source.

 

The Vermont Drug Task Force is Vermont’s only multi-agency drug unit whose primary focus is narcotics investigations.  Since it was established in 1987, the Task Force has grown to become the primary tool for combating narcotics throughout the state and along Vermont’s states and international borders.  State Police Troop Commanders, County Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police alike routinely call upon the Task Force to help in investigations and prosecutions of drug-related crimes in their communities.

 

The drug climate in Vermont has changed over the years, and in the recent past state and local law enforcement officials have seen a surge in the number of heroin-related arrests and evidence of methamphetamine production and abuse within Vermont.  Investigations and arrests for narcotics abuse and distribution are at an all-time high.  The Task Force’s main focus continues to be on the disruption and dismantling of organizations and arrests of individuals who transport illegal drugs into and throughout Vermont.

 

Before the Task Force, Vermont lacked a scheme to address the narcotics abuse problem; police simply targeted dealers and arrested them, and addicts were detoxified and sent back on the streets to resume their habits.  Little or no educational or awareness programs about heroin or methamphetamine abuse were in place.  The Task Force transformed that outdated model and results have been immediately observed not only in terms of the record numbers of arrests but also public perception as Vermont works on a plan to strengthen drug education, prevention, enforcement and treatment programs.  The Task Force has made a point to balance investigators who concentrate on heroin investigations with Task Force members who work diligently on illegal trafficking in other drugs.

 

VERMONT TREATMENT COURT ENHANCEMENT PROJECT:  $333,002

 

These funds, which Senator Leahy also secured through the Byrne Discretionary Grants Program (by way of the Appropriations Committee and the annual budget bill for the Justice Department), will lay the foundation for a court system that the State of Vermont’s Office of the Court Administrator is developing that integrates treatment and other services into the court process.  In some jurisdictions the strategy will be a treatment court (adult drug court, mental health court, juvenile drug court, family treatment court, or a combination); in other areas the strategy will be to use the treatment court concept and principles to provide services and treatment to the individuals who need them in ways that work better in more rural settings.  This funding will go a long way in filling the knowledge gaps, service gaps and information gaps that must be filled in creating this new system.

 

The immediate goals of the Vermont Treatment Court Enhancement Project are to develop activities -- primarily training -- to increase the knowledge and skills of potential treatment court team members and others interested in learning about and supporting the treatment court process; to provide training for law enforcement on mental health issues and mental health courts to divert people with mental health issues from the corrections system to the treatment system; to distribute planning grants to communities to coordinate the early phase of treatment court exploration; and to improve cross collaboration.  The project’s ultimate goals are to reduce recidivism; increase treatment delivery and reduce substance abuse relapses; increase individuals’ abilities to self-manage their life-long chronic illnesses whether a mental health issue or substance abuse addiction or both; decrease the number of incarcerated people when appropriate; and provide intensive monitoring and case management services for other issues, such as housing, employment, relationship, education and parenting.  Ultimately this will keep the regular court docket flowing so that backlogs are not an issue, and so that treatment court concepts will be incorporated into the regular court docket.

 

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