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Criminal Justice Panel Confirms Methamphetamine Epidemic

October 13th, 2020

Judge John Leete

Methamphetamine addiction is taking a terrible toll in Potter County. The epidemic was confirmed by everyone from police officers and the district attorney, to treatment specialists and the judiciary during this month’s meeting of the Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board. Sgt. Michael Murray from the Pa. State Police barracks at Denton Hill confirmed that meth has surpassed heroin as the “drug of choice,” although the latter continues to ruin lives. He added that fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid, is also being trafficked in the area. Enforcement is a major challenge, Sgt. Murray pointed out, because users are not only buying meth from dealers, but also creating their own supplies.

On a brighter note, Senior Retired Judge John Leete and Liz Haskin, a certified recovery support specialist, provided glimmers of hope as society comes to grips with the epidemic. Leete presides over the county’s treatment courts, which handle selected criminal cases involving offenders with drug and/or alcohol addiction. More than four dozen men and women have successfully completed the intensive probation supervision, treatment and support network regimen, he said. Seventeen offenders are currently under supervision. “It’s great to see people take back their lives,” Judge Leete said. “In fact, three new support groups have been formed locally by alumni of the treatment courts.”

Haskin discussed the impact that the treatment court regimen had on her own recovery, which she has carried into her professional life. “I am here to tell you that recovery is a reality,” she said. “Fortunately, Potter County’s criminal justice system, including District Attorney Andy Watson, has been supportive of people seeking recovery.”

Also at this month’s meeting, CJAB members:

  • adopted a sweeping Probation With Restrictive Conditions Plan following an explanation of its impact by President Judge Stephen Minor. It calls for a collaborative approach to reduce the number of offenders requiring incarceration.
  • heard a presentation from two Dickinson Center Inc. representatives on the new Forensic Long-Term Structured Residential Facility in Brookville. Potter and eight other counties have partnered with Dickinson to establish the facility – which will be referred to as DCI Restoration Center – for provision of in-patient mental health and related recovery services. Two openings are reserved for Potter County residents.
  • re-elected CJAB officers for 2021, with Judge Minor as chair, District Judge Kari McCleaft as vice chair, and Colleen Wilber from Potter County Human Services as administrator.
  • received a summary from Bryonna Swede, Potter County Human Services, on implementation of recommendations that emerged from last year’s Sequential Intercept Mapping workshop. SIM is a cross-system approach to behavioral health issues in criminal justice administration.
  • heard from Judge Minor that new policies related to risk assessments will take effect on July 1, 2021. Overarching goal is to effectively weigh risks related to whether an individual involved in the criminal justice system will re-offend.
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