By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Drug Court is a diversion program that aims to stop recidivism by helping addicted offenders get sober.
People who stay sober for a least a year and complete the requirements of the program are eligible to have their charges dropped.
Howell said she knows she has “very, very big shoes to fill” in replacing retiring coordinator Preston Kayes, who helped built the program into a regional model.
Kayes received a lifetime achievement award from the state drug court association in 2011.
His departure coincides with the retirement of Clallam County Superior Court Judge Ken Williams, who in 1997 started Clallam County’s Juvenile Drug Court — the first in the Pacific Northwest — and the adult drug court two years later.
Superior Court Judge George L. Wood, who has presided over the Juvenile Drug Court since 2003, will take over the Adult Drug Court.
Erik Rohrer, who was sworn onto the Superior Court bench Monday, will preside over the Juvenile Drug Court, Howell said.
Howell, who worked as a Drug Court prosecutor for more than four years, said she is eager for the change to build on the program’s success.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and very excited,” she said.
Howell, who was introduced at a county commissioners’ meeting Dec. 18, said she believes strongly in the program and has “seen it work for many people.”
She said her first two weeks as coordinator have been the “best two weeks I’ve had on a job.”
“It’s been a program with a lot of history here, and I hope to continue that,” Howell said.
As the coordinator, Howell will work closely with the nonviolent offenders who qualify for the program. She will ensure that they get to treatment, counseling, weekly court hearings and take regular drug tests.
The coordinator also works with offenders on housing issues, employment and education, Howell said.
Kayes said Howell’s past experience as a Drug Court prosecutor will be an asset.
“She’s very familiar with our Drug Court and the procedures and all that,” said Kayes, who will spend another few weeks training Howell before he makes his retirement official.
Last summer, the county hired Kevin Crittenden to replace Kayes as program coordinator, but Crittenden accepted another job after Kayes had trained him.
Kayes said he encouraged Howell to apply, and that she was one of “two very good applicants.”
One of Howell’s greatest strengths, Kayes said, is her skills in “dealing with drug addicts that aren’t always the easiest people to deal with.”
“If you’re not strong, you’re going to get run over,” he added. “Successful Drug Court people for all these years have said what has worked for them was finally being held accountable.”
Howell said there is a “ripple effect” with every Drug Court graduation as the family members of addicts get their loved ones back.
“There’s been some pretty memorable stories about families reunited with people that have been through the criminal justice system coming to Drug Court, and now they’re employed and doing really great things and able to give back,” she said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.