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CO-OCCURRING DISORDERS COURT (CODC)

On September 29, 2006, the Co-Occurring Disorders Court honored its first two graduates with a ceremony in the main courtroom of the Kennebec County Superior Court. The graduation was attended by the graduates and their family members; other members of the CODC; Superior Court Chief Justice Thomas Humphrey, members of the Maine State Senate and House of Representatives; representatives of Department of Health and Human Services, Riverview Psychiatric Center, Office of Substance Abuse, Department of Corrections, and area treatment providers; and the CODC team members, including District Attorney Evert Fowle, Attorney John Pelletier, Elizabeth Simoni from Maine Pretrial Services, Peter Wohl from Crisis and Counseling, Hartwell Dowling from the AOC, Jim McGurty, CODC case manager, clerks Lisa Waitt and Roxanne DiMarco, and Justice Nancy Mills.

The CODC opened in June 2005. Initially, planning and operation of the CODC took place without additional funding. In the fall of 2005, the CODC was awarded a three-year, $.5 million grant from the Department of Justice. The grant was used to fund a full-time case manager. The CODC has yet to request funding from the Maine Legislature.

As of September 29, 2006, the court had 18 members. Two participants have been terminated from the court. Participation in the court requires a mental health diagnosis and a co-occurring substance abuse problem. Defendants charged with any crime are considered for admission. The majority of members of the court have pleaded guilty to class A, B, or C charges, including sex offenses, drug offenses, robbery, class C assault, class C OUI, class C theft, burglary, and multiple probation violations. Increasingly, admission to the CODC requires that the criminal conduct is driven by mental illness and that the amount of incarceration saved by successful completion of the CODC is measured in terms of years, not months.

Upon admission to the court, the defendants are connected to the resources they need to succeed, including housing, insurance, financial support, treatment, medicine, encouragement and support from the team, case management, and, if appropriate, a job or further schooling.

All defendants meet with Justice Mills each week to discuss their progress. Both graduates succeeded in spite of significant challenges. One, at age 59, has been reunited with his wife and daughter, and cares for his elderly mother. The other graduate lives with his mother and young daughter and is working toward a degree at the University of Maine in Augusta.