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With New Law, Missouri Treatment Courts Come Under One Umbrella

Jennifer Moore

A new Missouri law places all treatment courts under one state program. That means a defendant struggling with addiction in a county without a treatment court can now transfer to a jurisdiction that does have one.

Here’s how treatment courts work: they look at each defendant, weighing the risks and needs. 

Qualifying defendants are admitted to a program that includes treatment for substance abuse or mental health--instead of going to jail.

Governor Mike Parson signed the bill into law Wednesday in Springfield.  HB2 made it through the House and Senate in this year’s special legislative session.

“From 22 years in law enforcement, I’m a law-and-order guy. I always have been. But I also believe in alternative sentencing,” Parson said.

The new law also adds two more commissioners to the state regulatory board that oversees treatment courts.

The original bill was filed by Representative Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, who will soon be a treatment court commissioner in Greene County.

“This is not a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free card.’ This is a two-year, long, arduous process that they have to be fully vested in,” Austin said.

Greene County has had treatment courts for nearly two decades, and its courts have been seen as a model for many other counties statewide.

County officials say it has helped reduce recidivism rates significantly.

About 1,400 people are currently part of the program in Greene County, due to mental health and substance use issues, according to county officals.