Nevada Drug Court Sets Up a Nonprofit to Do What It Can’t

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June 28, 2014; Elko Daily Free Press

Sometimes, the government spawns a nonprofit to do what it cannot do alone. That’s often how a public-private partnership is born.

Such is the case in Elko, Nevada, a small city about 200 miles due west of Salt Lake City and 300 miles due north of Las Vegas, whose courts formed a new nonprofit group to help defendants through alcohol and drug recovery.

The Elko Daily Free Press reports that the county’s specialty court team, which includes both local district court judges, launched New Directions, a nonprofit run by a board of volunteers who are unaffiliated with Elko’s four drug court programs. Its purpose is to assist specialty court participants in ways that the court cannot. That might include needs like a baby’s crib, medical care and medication, education and training expenses, and rent.

“Our participants have challenges other than drug addiction,” District Judge Al Kacin told the Free Press, adding, “although some participants have access to resources and family support, many do not. The nonprofit is designed to help prevent stumbling blocks for clients.”

Although the court created New Directions, the group’s board will make decisions independent of the courts, which cannot by law raise money. The nonprofit will decide how to allocate the funds it receives, which could be given as gifts or loans, and it will have the discretion to continue assisting participants for up to two years after graduation, according to the paper.

The idea is to allow drug and DUI court participants to complete the program and remain sober.

“If we can get these people in recovery and assist them to stay in recovery, then they are productive members of society,” District Judge Nancy Porter told the paper, “We can’t incarcerate our way out of this problem.”

In addition, the Free Press says that the fiscal impact favors specialty courts and similar approaches—for every $1 that goes into drug courts, taxpayers save $3.36 by avoiding criminal justice costs, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

The Elko nonprofit is modeled after a similar group in Reno and comes after two years of planning. Court officials were assisted in setting up New Directions by local accounting and law firms.—Larry Kaplan