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Oregon Court Records

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How Do the Oregon Specialty Courts Work?

Oregon Specialty courts are also referred to as problem-solving courts. These courts operate under a specialized system to provide court-directed administration and directive treatment to non-violent persons. Specialty courts cater to persons with substance abuse or mental health cases elemental to their criminal behavior. These courts are structured to address the root causes of criminal activity and substance abuse by coordinating efforts of the judiciary, prosecution, law enforcement, probation, defense, treatment, social services, and mental health entities. Specialty courts offer non-violent offenders an alternative to imprisonment and teach participants to become productive, law-abiding citizens, reducing recidivism, and promoting healthier communities.

Typically, specialty court judges impose a highly demanding regimen of accountability and treatment that requires a strong personal dedication from participants to take responsibility for their lives. This is to eliminate substance abuse and sustain a crime-free lifestyle.

Oregon Revised Statute ORS 3.450 defines specialty courts as drug court programs, mental health courts, veterans’ courts, and other similar docketing systems. All specialty courts serve a targeted population with agreed eligibility criteria, and rely on consistent judicial interaction in the course of the program. Specialty courts require collaboration among a multidisciplinary team made up of judicial, supervisory, treatment, and legal staff, as well as other parties, to conform to best practices.

The specialty court provides a continuous series of services through a partnership with a primary treatment provider, including outpatient, intensive outpatient, detoxification, residential services, and day treatment. Residential services allow children to live with their parents or guardians when possible.

The specialty court has a team that identifies the treatment staff in charge of case management services and coordinates other ancillary services, making necessary referrals. The court also offers treatment-readiness programs for participants who appear on waiting lists for comprehensive treatment services. These services may include Motivational Enhancement Therapy, Curriculum-Based Motivational Groups, and Motivational Interviewing. 

The dosage and duration of treatment administered to participants by the specialty courts may vary. These strictly depend on the person’s risks and needs, as determined by validated systematized assessments. Typically, high-need participants receive six to ten hours of treatment every week, during the first phase. After the first phase, they undergo 200 hours of counseling over nine to twelve months. The specialty court incorporates a systematic phase structure with aftercare as the last phase/level. However, note that these programs are flexible, and may be adjusted depending on an individual’s response to treatment.

The participants undergo treatment programming, which are all of the following: 

  • Standardized;
  • Cognitive-behavioral or behavioral;
  • Manualized;
  • Evidence-based;
  • Implemented with accuracy and maintained with continuous regulation of the treatment providers; and
  • Endorsed by the specialty court to ensure service quality and to guide practice.

An Oregon specialty court offers a wide range of treatment programs appropriate for the court type. These programs adopt directives that guide the regularity of each service to be received by a participant. The services include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Group counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Gender-specific counseling
  • Culturally competent and linguistically appropriate services
  • Domestic violence counseling
  • Health screening
  • Anger management
  • Brief evidence-based educational curriculum to avert behavior that may lead to health hazards (such as STIs and other diseases)
  • Trauma-informed care, including trauma-related services 
  • Drug testing 
  • Medication-assisted treatment 
  • Assessment and counseling for mental health issues 
  • Brief evidence-based educational curriculum to stop or reverse a drug overdose 
  • Criminal thinking interventions
  • Medication management 
  • Evaluation of suitability for group interventions 
  • Transition plan (for the participant’s rehabilitation, following court supervision)
  • Alcohol and drug counseling
  • Residential treatment

The mental health team, Family Drug Court (FDC), and Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JDTC) have additional treatment modalities.

The mental health team includes mental health providers and substance use treatment providers. This team uses the following methods:

  • Assertive community treatment
  • Psychotropic medications
  • Illness self-management

The Family Drug Court (FDC) team includes a child’s attorney or guardian ad litem, a child welfare case manager, and a parent’s attorney. It may also include a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a domestic violence advocate or service provider, and a mental health provider.

The FDC treatment services use a family-centered approach, which includes in-home treatment. This treatment integrates children’s mental health interventions for participants with infants and toddlers. The services include visitation while assuring the child’s safety and promoting bonds for families who have children in foster care. The following services must be available for participants’ children:

  • Developmental screening and evaluation
  • Services to address prenatal and postnatal exposure to substances
  • Trauma-related services
  • Prevention services
  • Early intervention services
  • Treatment services for substance use disorders

The FDC services for children must be coordinated with parents and help the parents understand the child’s needs. Also, services for children below three years old must involve the active participation of the parent. Children in out-of-home care may retain a single placement (to avoid additional trauma).

The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JDTC) has five additional treatment modalities, including the following:

  • Assertive continuing care
  • Focus on behavioral health treatment and family intervention
  • Motivational enhancement therapy

Most counties have specialty courts that can be located using the "Select Your Court" portal. On the portal, select the county of choice and then click on “Specialty Court.” Note that no information will be provided if a county does not have a specialty court.

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