U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar discussed funding for and efforts by the Borderland Substance Abuse Court Friday to help curb drug use by local folks through treatment.
Meeting in a round table discussion at the Koochiching County Courthouse with Klobuchar were members of the court's support team, which include local treatment providers, probation, court officials, state Department of Corrections staff, an attorney, and several others.
Following the discussion, Klobuchar said she'd follow up on suggestions from the group.
Friday's stop in International Falls is a part of Klobuchar's annual 87-county tour of Minnesota. Also on this trip, she met with business owners and employees at AET Automotive Enviro Testing in Baudette to discuss her efforts to strengthen Minnesota’s workforce and address the challenges facing business owners in rural Minnesota. In Bemidji, Klobuchar joined middle and high school students to celebrate Concordia Language Villages International Day. In Bena, Klobuchar toured the new Bug O Nay Ge Shig School, with a tour of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank in Grand Rapids. Saturday, Klobuchar will present a Purple Heart to the family of World War I veteran Albert M. Hanson in Park Rapids.
Ninth District Judge Charles LeDuc told Klobuchar during the Falls meeting Friday that substance abuse courts are continually seeking more money, and asked Klobuchar to consider changing the way money for substance abuse courts are funded. Now, he said the money goes to the federal government and to the judiciary. He asked that money instead be funneled through the Department of Corrections to ensure it is used for substance abuse court coordinators and probation officers.
Borderland's Substance Abuse Court has been operational for about 13 years, he said, and about 10 years ago added Lake of the Woods County.
As a former Hennepin County attorney, Klobuchar said she has led local and national efforts to curb drug abuse and help people overcome addiction. In March, she announced a $3.3 billion increase in federal funding to combat the opioid epidemic. The funding assists states to pay for treatment and prevention. It also includes funding for drug courts and veterans treatment courts.
Klobuchar is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which covers issues such as criminal justice, consumer rights, intellectual property and antitrust law.
LeDuc pointed out that the front-end costs of substance abuse courts provide hard-cost savings to the state by assisting participants in staying out of prison and jail.
Sheriff Perryn Hedlund discussed with Klobuchar that methamphetamine continues to be used and sold in the community, with a number of substance abuse court participants involved.
In addition, members of the team also reminded the group that alcohol and marijuana also influence many living in Borderland.
Locally, finding safe, sober and affordable housing for drug court participants and graduates is also posing challenges, the group agreed. Some who cannot secure that kind of housing face staying in the situations where family and friends are still using drugs, making sobriety more challenging and very difficult.
Amanda Zortman, Borderland Substance Abuse Court coordinator, told The Journal after the meeting that there are 30 participants now in the court, with a total of 233 participants in the program since 2007. Of the total, she noted, 26 were veterans.
The court's rate of recidivism is 15 percent, meaning among those who have graduated just 15 percent have had an alcohol or drug-related offense after graduating.
Taking part in Friday's discussion were Borderland Substance Abuse Court team members: LeDuc; Hedlund; Jenell Feller, director, Friends Against Abuse; Kimberly Wimmer, defense attorney; Troy Rautio, probation officer; Maria Pahlen, Treatment Court supervisor. Ninth District; Marc Bloomquist, Department of Corrections, district supervisor; Amy Ballard, director Social Services, Lake of the Woods; Gus and Sue Christensen, Rainy River Recover; and Zortman.