A program designed to divert certain individuals from incarceration in Missoula County by providing treatment for substance use will see two new addiction counselors join the team.
The county this week approved separate independent contracts for the two counselors, who will work with the Missoula County Attorney’s Pretrial Diversion Program, otherwise known as Calibrate.
“The idea here is to conduct the assessment earlier in the criminal justice process rather than waiting,” said Ray Reiser, the county’s pretrial diversion coordinator. “The idea is to reach them earlier to address their substance use and hopefully make some progress there.”
The nationally recognized Calibrate program seeks to reduce the number of individuals involved in the criminal justice system and their impacts on the jail. The program identifies low-risk individuals and gives them a chance to address the root cause of what brought them to the attention of law enforcement.
Providing treatment to eligible individuals early in the process also saves taxpayer’s money when compared to the cost of incarceration.
“We’re looking at a different way to process cases – an alternative to traditional prosecution,” Reiser said. “We’re taking someone out of the criminal justice process. I develop a case plan the individual follows. The charges against them are then dismissed. They have to do a little work to get there first.”
Not all individuals are eligible for the program and a number of factors come into play, Reiser said. For starters, the individual must be recommended for the program, often through their defense counsel.
If the prosecutor agrees, they’ll contact Reiser who screens the individual. If the individual qualifies, they’re placed into the Calibrate program on a voluntary basis.
“We do need buy-in from the victim,” Reiser added. “Generally, before I initiate contact with the defendant or defense counsel, I’ll try to contact the victim. We do need that buy in before moving forward.”
Since 2019, around 57 individuals have successfully completed the program and had their charges dismissed. Seven were unsuccessful, Reiser said.
The two independent contractors will help expand the program’s capacity and intervention. Each contract provides $1,200 per complex chemical dependency evaluation with a maximum number of evaluations of 10 per year.
“I currently have 25 enrollees. I’d like to increase that as time progresses. With the addition of new staff, I hope to do that,” Reiser said.