Pierce County Drug Court taps Skype technology

Pierce County Drug Court is incorporating the use of Skype Internet technology to the review hearing process for participants who attend inpatient drug and alcohol treatment outside of Pierce County.

Pierce County Drug court adheres to the 10 “Key Components,” developed by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, that are designed to provide courts with a model that can be adapted to fit the specific needs of the community. The seventh Key Component states that “ongoing judicial interaction with each participant is essential.”

As part of the Drug Court program, participants who are identified as in need of intensive outpatient treatment services are often referred to short- and long-term treatment programs to address their addiction and to begin a meaningful program of recovery. When they have successfully completed their inpatient treatment program they return to Pierce County and re-engage in outpatient treatment with Pierce County Alliance, the outpatient treatment provider for Drug Court.

“There are definite benefits to incorporating Skype into our processes,” Superior Court Judge Tom Larkin said. “It ensures ongoing judicial interaction with Drug Court participants. And it saves the time and expense required for participants to attend Review Hearings in person.” Judge Larkin added that Skype was a cost effective and efficient way to ensure that this important interaction continues to happen, even when clients are attending treatment in other cities. In the past, this interaction has been limited to written reports and the occasional review by phone.

Skype review hearings were recently piloted with two nearby inpatient treatment centers located in Seattle: Genesis House and SeaDruNar. In the past, treatment staff have transported participants from the facility to court. This took them away from their duties and also required participants to miss out on their daily treatment planning to attend court. With the initial success of Skype review hearing with Genesis House and SeaDrunar, Pierce County Drug Court will now begin offering this option to treatment centers at more distant locations such as Longview, Yakima and Spokane.