Snohomish County Adult Drug Treatment Court Helps Hundreds Succeed

Bonnie Johnson - Monday, July 23, 2018
Snohomish County Adult Drug Treatment Court Helps Hundreds Succeed

From the Superior Court of Washington for Snohomish County: The numbers are in, and they're something to brag about. See below for full details, courtesy of Snohomish County.

About half of participants now report heroin and other opioids were their drugs of choice


Everett, WA- As Snohomish County wrestles with epidemic opioid abuse, a special court quietly continues helping people reclaim their lives.

The adult drug treatment court, founded in 1999, recently marked its 800th graduation. On Friday, July 13, two more people reached that milestone.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joseph Wilson has presided over the drug court for nearly five years. During that time, he’s seen more than 150 people graduate. Each completed a rigorous legal journey that typically lasted more than a year and included mandatory court appearances, strict adherence to rules, random drug testing, treatment and counseling.

The court aims to help people find the courage to look inside themselves and honestly confront the reasons drugs and criminal conduct have claimed their lives, Wilson said.

When a drug court participant succeeds and again finds their purpose, “It is the greatest honor of my life,” the judge said.

Nearly nine out of ten successful participants in the adult drug treatment court remain crime free five years after admission, court data show. Even among participants who don’t complete the program, two thirds have no felony or misdemeanor convictions five years after admission.

The drug court not only works, it is a good use of public resources, Wilson said. For every dollar spent on the drug court, the community avoids spending seven times more on repeated arrests, prosecutions and incarceration, he said.

The drug court is built upon a partnership between the chemical dependency treatment communities, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender Association, law enforcement and Superior Court staff. Drug court professionals leave behind what typically are adversarial roles and engage as a team to encourage participants to make necessary life changes.

The drug court is open only to non-violent, substance-abusing offenders who are being prosecuted for felonies, typically property and drug crimes. Those who complete the program can avoid conviction. Those who don’t see their cases returned to the usual track.

Participants come from throughout the community, said Janelle Sgrignoli, program administrator for the county’s specialized courts. Many have held jobs. Most have experienced abuse and other trauma. Each is somebody’s child, spouse, mom, dad, other relative, friend or co-worker, she said.

It is common for drug court participants to have begun abusing substances as teens. ”We are dealing with people who made poor choices in their adolescence and now need help,” Sgrignoli said.

About half of drug court participants now report that heroin and other opiates are their drugs of choice, although there has been a resurgence in methamphetamine use in recent years.


Snohomish County Superior Court’s Adult Drug Treatment Court

Admissions between January 2011 and December 2017:

775 people were accepted into the program. In all, 68 percent were men, 32 percent women.

34 percent were 18 to 25.

18 percent were 26 to 33.

36 percent were 34 to 41.

12 percent were 42 or older.

50 percent indicated that heroin or other opiates were their drugs of choice

Discharges between 1/1/2011 and December 2016:

Among those who successfully completed the program, 69 percent were men and 31 percent were women.

35 percent 18 to 25.

35 percent 26 to 33.

18 percent 34 to 41.

12 percent were 42 or older.

46 percent indicated opiates were their primary drugs of choice compared with 54 percent of non-opiate users*

*Medication Assisted Treatment implemented in 2017

Recidivism (any felony or misdemeanor conviction 5 years post admission)

87 percent of successful participants were still crime free five years post admission.

64 percent of those who did not complete the program still were crime free five years post admission.

Photo caption information: Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joseph Wilson congratulates another graduate of the county’s adult drug treatment court, July 13, 2018.

This information is being shared on behalf of the Superior Court by the Snohomish County Opioid Response Multi-Agency Coordination Group. For more, please go to This website and accompanying social media accounts were developed to be a one-stop shop for resources. Whether trying to understand the problem, prevent addiction, or save a life, this is a place to find information for that first next step.


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