Oklahoma's Successful Drug Court Program To Be Cut

Tuesday, October 24th 2017, 6:49 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

If the legislature doesn't act soon to replace $75 million in lost revenue to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the agency says it will cut all outpatient services.

Among those cuts would be elimination of the Oklahoma Drug Court. The program has been around since 1995 and provides treatment for those convicted of drug possession instead of incarceration.

Brian Wheeler says he walked out of the county jail with the clothes on his back and nothing else. Today, almost two and a half years later, he's clean and sober for the first time in his adult life.

“It gave me an opportunity, it kept me going long enough to see what my life would be like without the mess and the drugs and the alcohol,” he said Tuesday while holding his 11-month old baby.

Wheeler says he started using drugs as a teenager and since then spent most of his life in and out of prison and addicted to Methamphetamine.

“As soon as I get out I do okay for a little bit but nobody did anything to prepare…nobody taught me what I needed to know.”

So this last time, he begged to get into drug court. 

“Best thing that ever happened to me,” Wheeler said. “The judge that we go in front of, the drug court judge, this guy’s amazing. He cares and it comes out that he truly cares.”

According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the average cost of drug court is $4,000 per-person, per-year compared to incarceration which is $19,000 per-person, per-year. And most people who go through the program are successful. More than 75 percent stay out of jail after going through the program.

For Brian, it means in addition to a new baby, he's also getting his other kids back. And he's now working two jobs to support his family.

“It works, we found something that works.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse says they have already begun the process of shutting down the drug court program.