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Funding for Drug Court post in doubt

The Kitsap County Drug Court received a last-minute reprieve earlier this month when the county, local municipalities and tribes kicked in enough money to fund a compliance officer for six months.

But depending on what happens next week in the Washington State Legislature, the program’s future could be murky.

The court had lost funding for the compliance officer last year when federal funds were cut.

Drug Court began in 1999 under the supervision of Superior Court Judge Jay B. Roof, who still heads the program. It is a combined effort between law enforcement, judicial, fiscal and health-related aspects of county government that offers sentencing alternatives to drug offenders.

Despite the cut, Roof said Monday that he is “cautiously optimistic that we will be able to find another funding source.”

The program has received universal accolades from local officials. Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer said, “Because of Drug Court, we spend fewer resources on healthcare and jail space.”

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel called it “critical for us, and a model that other places are asking to use.”

Nonetheless, the federal government cut the initial funding and the Washington State House of Representatives pulled a $54,000 budget amendment from Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo).

“This has been a terrible year to get funding for anything,” Appleton said, “although nothing is dead until it’s really dead.”

The legislative session ends next week, at which point this funding door will be permanently closed — or possibly not.

Kitsap County funded the position with a $200,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Superior Court Administrator Frank Maiocco said the county did not claim $80,000 of this money by the end of the grant period, assuming it could reapply for the funds that were awarded in the first place.

The court was aware the grant was to expire in 2007, but felt it could secure funds from another grant or the county’s general fund.

Just as the county made it clear that such funds were not available, Maiocco learned the grant expired in June rather than September as he previously thought.

By the time the application was submitted, the grant had expired.

Roof characterized Drug Court as a “three-legged stool” of judicial enforcement, treatment and compliance.

If compliance goes away, the program can still function, although not as efficiently.

Roof said the latest agreement, which was administered by the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council (KRCC) will fund the position until the end of July.

“Getting funding from the cities really makes us feel great,” said Drug Court Manager Cherie Lusk. “Getting this feedback validates what we are doing.”

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