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Steele and Waseca Counties Open Joint Drug Court

Created: 07/16/2014 6:53 PM KAALtv.com
By: Stephanie Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- Steele and Waseca counties are celebrating the opening of their joint drug court, where drug or alcohol addicted individuals may go in lieu of traditional justice system case processing.

A drug court differs in that it monitors the defendant's progress toward sobriety.

"Weekly meetings with the judge, at least twice weekly drug testing, requirement of attendance into treatment and sobriety, requirements of being law abiding," said Steele County Judge Joseph Bueltel.

It's something dozens of counties now have in the state, but Olmsted County isn’t quite there yet.

"It's been one of my projects for eight years, and I’ve been trying for eight years to continue this conversation," said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem.

However, he says their moving forward with more enthusiasm than ever before.

"I think that's in part because we're seeing people like Steele and Waseca get together, Rice County has got something going," he said.

Olmsted County is now at the point where they're talking budget and which partners to include.

"I would really like to see something get started in 2015 and I think that would be about as aggressive as we can be," said Ostrem.

He says he's going to continue to be aggressive in getting a drug court here, as the need is only growing.

"Meth was a big deal and we saw a lot of people who were really getting their lives messed up because of meth. That's still a problem, it’s still a huge problem for our community, but we're also seeing other substances and heroin right now," said Ostrem.

The whole purpose of a drug court is to get those individuals clean so they contribute to society,"with the ultimate goal of having them clean and sober, employed, and contributing members by the end of that period," said Bueltel.

The catch with county drug courts, is that they can only take in defendants who live in that county.

Thursday is the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Waseca County Court house.

Photo: ABC 6 News