Carroll loses bid for funds to start juvenile drug court County would have used $380,000 to send offenders into intensive counseling

October 04, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Losing out on a federal grant to establish a juvenile drug court in Carroll County should have no serious impact on the court for now, but authorities say the need won't go away.

Juvenile authorities in Carroll had applied for a two-year, $380,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that would have enabled the county's juvenile services office to hire two investigators and two counselors at Junction Inc., a Westminster drug and alcohol treatment center.

Teaming with the county's juvenile master, the new employees would identify and closely monitor about 50 young offenders, said David J. Tucker, the county's supervisor for the state's Department of Juvenile Justice.

Receiving the federal grant would have meant that young offenders would have a good chance to avoid the juvenile criminal system. They would have had the option of entering a program of intensive counseling with random testing, he said.

Tucker learned in August that his agency's application was rejected but held off making the disappointing news public until he could meet with court and Junction officials.

The local grant application was one of 289 nationwide that sought funds to plan, implement or enhance adult and juvenile drug courts, said Doug Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Courts Office in Washington. Of those applicants, 161 received monetary awards, Johnson said.

The rejection notice Tucker received included a critique, citing strengths and weaknesses of the Carroll County bid. He said the federal agency essentially wanted more data to support the request.

"The need for enhanced drug services here is serious," Tucker said. "We're making progress, especially in getting quicker access to inpatient beds in treatment programs."

Tucker said he plans to reapply in the spring for federal funds. In the meantime, he has submitted to the state Department of Juvenile Services "a scaled-down version" of the grant application.

"We want to add one juvenile worker to help the existing staff in setting down guidelines and sanctions and facilitating treatment for young offenders," he said.

That person would assist in with all substances, not just heroin, Tucker said.

Peter M. Tabatsko, the juvenile master for Carroll County, said yesterday that the loss of funds to start a juvenile drug court would have no adverse effect on services.

"I looked at [the drug court] as an enhancement, an extra tool," he said. "We could use all the additional resources that drug court could provide, but we won't suffer."

The juvenile caseload is heavybut cyclical. Tabatsko said he recently reviewed the numbers of juvenile cases entering his court for five years but could not pinpoint acause for the cyclical pattern.

Because of the current "heavy" load, Tabatsko said he has added court days. Juvenile hearings are normally held Mondays, but by the end of this month, he said, he will start hearing juvenile cases every other Friday.

If the need continues through Jan. 1, Tabatsko said he might begin holding court both days each week.

Despite the growing caseload, there's good news. "We're not seeing an increase in violent crimes," he said.

Raymond E. Beck Sr., administrative judge for the Carroll Circuit Court, agreed that implementing a drug court would have been a plus, but he said he was confident that Tabatsko would come to him if the caseload became unmanageable.

Drug court "will come to pass -- if not this year, then the first of next year," Beck said.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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