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Drug courts making a much needed comeback

A Salem woman out on bail while she appealed her third drunk driving conviction ended up behind bars when her probation officer found her drunk on a home visit. This should not be a surprise. Alcoholics will drink, and drug addicts will use drugs, despite negative consequences.

Ellen Kelleher, 59, of 37 Belleview Ave had been ordered to stay away from alcohol following her most recent arrest. Judge Michael Lauranzano had imposed a two-year jail term, with 180 days to be served and the balance suspended for 18 months, during which Kelleher was supposed to be on probation for the March 2013 arrest. Her attorney had negotiated her release during the appeal process, provided Kelleher stay away from alcohol . That she was unable to accomplish this is evidence that she is indeed an alcoholic in need of treatment for this disease. However, the public also needs protection from Ms. Kelleher, and other alcoholics who continue to pilot two ton vehicles, capable of moving at over 100 miles per hour while significantly impaired by alcohol.

Ms. Kelleher needs a comprehensive treatment program. When alcoholism or other drug addictions take hold, they distort a persons thinking and impair their judgment. That is how addicts engage in behavior that most rationale people, and they themselves when sober, would say is not safe and makes no sense.

Massachusetts’ Governor Patrick recently proposed funding to a new set of legal resources designed to address these issues. Drug Courts that have existed in various forms for many years just received support for five new courts in the Commonwealth. These “Problem Solving Courts” are staffed with social workers and other treatment professionals who work with probation officers and judges to structure necessary treatment programs for those who, because of their illness, are not currently capable of engaging in these programs themselves.

People like Ms. Kelleher need treatment programs to address their disorder. Locking them up only provides a temporary solution to a much more complicated problem.

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