Nashua Drug Court
Greater Nashua Mental Health Center has been the provider of services for the Nashua Drug Court program since 2014.
Without the Nashua Drug Court program, most participants would be facing extended incarceration, due to numerous arrests for serious crimes. However, according to several studies, Drug Court programs significantly reduce the recidivism rate for these kinds of offenses. In national studies of drug court programs, the average recidivism rate was only 16 percent in the first year after leaving the program, and 27 percent after the second year. This is much more favorable than the recidivism rates of offenders on conventional probation, in which 46 percent commit a new offense and over 60 percent commit a probation violation.
Most participants have long histories of involvement in the criminal justice system and have served prison sentences for felonies. A significant number of participants have co-occurring mental health disorders, so they struggle not only with substance misuse, but also an additional mental health diagnosis, making the road to recovery that much more challenging. Many meet the definition for homelessness, and are living in unstable situations including couch surfing, or sleeping in their cars. Most are in need of medical treatment and are not receiving it unless they experience an acute situation, which leads them to the local hospital Emergency Room. Additional stressors in clients lives may include lack of employment, losing custody of children, and the destruction of beneficial relationships with family members and supportive friends.
While participating in the program, attendees are responsible for working within the parameters of the program, including staying sober and being honest. If they stray, they face court sanctions and other remedial measures. At the same time, their hard work is often rewarded as they progress through the program. Participants work in conjunction with psychiatrists, therapists and social workers to receive very specific, evidence-based services which may include Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) for approximately 3 hours a day, 4 days per week in the beginning. Clients must also attend weekly court appearances, in addition to showing up for meetings with their case manager.
When the need for intensive substance misuse treatment becomes less time consuming, program participants may be connected with psychiatric and/or additional mental health services including groups that utilize cognitive behavioral approaches to restructure thinking patterns, co-occurring disorders, or the management of mental health symptoms. In addition, clients are expected to attend recovery support meetings (e.g. AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, etc.) and medical treatment appointments as deemed appropriate. They are also connected to services in the community to access housing as well as opportunities for further education and employment.
Most participants are in the program for approximately 18 months. After their commencement celebration, Drug Court graduates are in stable housing, often have steady jobs, may continue to further their education, including college, and are reunited with family and friends, and often regain custody of children they lost to their addiction. They have learned to manage finances, and are thereby able to pay down loans or other financial obligations that previously went unpaid. They are supporting their families. Most importantly, they have a true sense of having a hopeful, responsible adult life that some have never known until now.
Nationwide, 75% of Drug Treatment Court graduates remain arrest-free for at least two years after leaving the program. More rigorous studies examining long-term outcomes of drug courts have found that reductions in crime last at least 3 years, and can endure over 14 years. The most rigorous scientific meta-analyses of the studies have all concluded that drug courts significantly reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options. In addition to this, drug courts produce a cost savings of between $3,000 and $13,000 per client.