Sen. Daines hears case for additional MT drug court funding

HELENA — State judges presiding over Montana’s drug-treatment courts said they’re a much better route than throwing addicts in prison.

But, late last week, treatment court officials told U.S. Senator Steve Daines that they could use more resources for more courts and that the pandemic isn’t helping either.

Members of Helena’s drug-court treatment team met with Senator Daines on Friday to talk about successes and struggles. Two drug-court treatment graduates, Dawn Knowles and Joe Wolhers, said the program has helped them recover, after years of addiction and family trauma.

Daines said he’s a big proponent of treatment courts which sometimes can be funded by federal money. Helena treatment-court judge, James Reynolds, said another 80 families in Helena could benefit from the courts and that they should certainly be expanded.

He also said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder, by restricting how much he can interact with treatment-court participants, face-to-face.

“I’m not sitting up here waiting for you to screw up so I can throw the book at you, you know?” said State District Judge James Reynolds of Helena. “We all take those hats off, put on these other hats and we’re trying to work it as a team to try to give you the best chance to be a success in your life.”

“Listening to the results of these treatment courts tells a very compelling story this is something we should continue invest in,” said U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. “Men and women who were on paths of addiction and headed toward prison go through the treatment court process and they come out as productive members of society, that hold them accountable.”

State judges like Reynolds must run the treatment court, yet still manage a full docket of other cases, both civil and criminal.