Falmouth Implementing Drug Court

Tim DunnThe drug court program is coming to Falmouth.  

Judge Christopher Welch, the judge who ran the largest drug court operation in Massachusetts, informed selectmen last month of his decision to implement the program at Falmouth District Court.

A specialty court, drug court specifically deals with crimes related to substance abuse and is meant for those who cannot stop drug abuse without “substantial intervention.”

“I spent 23 years as a rather hard-bitten, Irish-Catholic trial lawyer in Boston. I came to the bench 12 years ago, primarily in Fall River. I sat there for eight years,” said Judge Welch at an April 29 selectman’s meeting.

“After five years I began seeing the same people again and again and again. They were committing crimes such as theft, breaking and entering into cars, maybe breaking and entering into homes, a lot of thievery, a lot of money crimes, a lot of crimes on their own families, credit card frauds, things like that. And you could sentence them for six months, a year, or two years and they’d be back. So, I began talking to people in the drug court movement.”

According to Judge Welch, of all the crime-related hearings at Falmouth District Court, roughly 70-percent are drug related.

In drug court, a judge can require an intense treatment plan for the individual that includes frequent drug testing, enhanced probation supervision, and the close monitoring of an individual’s progress.

The court consist of a five-stage program, which is usually completed in a minimum of 18 months.

“This is going to be a great program. It’s going to be great for Falmouth, it really is. It’s just another tool that, as the judge said, is going to help us,” said Falmouth Police Chief Ed Dunne.

Dunne says the department, along with all Upper Cape police departments, will be assigning at least one officer to participate in the drug court. He adds that the town has seen a 109-percent increase in overdoses, paired with a 400-percent increase this year in overdose deaths.

“I believe the other chiefs on the Upper Cape have also, because it’s important and it’s going to assist us. It’s going to help save lives,” Dunne said at the meeting.  

Not every drug user will benefit from nor be sent to drug court. Users not seen as high-risk that can complete the traditional process will remain in the same system.

Big kudos to those involved in bringing this progressive approach to the Cape. The numbers don’t lie. 100-400% increases in overdoses and deaths is unacceptable and hopefully enacting this plan is a step in the right direction. Do you think this is too lenient?