The nation’s first collegiate drug court, a method of dealing with repeat alcohol and drug users, recently was established at Colorado State University. Although known as a systematic and successful approach to a sweeping problem, drug courts have never been attempted on a college campus.
The College of Applied Human Sciences and Colorado State University Cooperative Extension were awarded a $350,000 grant from the Department of Education’s "Safe and Drug-Free Schools" competition to design, implement and test the nation’s first campus drug court.
With alcohol abuse a major drug problem on college campuses, the goals of the program are to reduce high-risk drinking behavior, reduce recidivism rates, increase retention of these students and test the feasibility of a drug court on a college campus. Known as Day IV, the program has already proven to be promising, with an 86 percent success rate during a pilot conducted at Colorado State last year.
The drug court system was put in place in the early 1990s by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Since that time, the program has become one of the judicial system’s more effective strategies for rehabilitating those with drug and alcohol problems. Judges, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys and counselors work together in a regimen of hearings and interviews devoted to reform and rehabilitate the individual. The program involves a system of intense monitoring and supervision, with the seriousness and debilitating nature of drug abuse emphasized at all times.
The Day IV program at Colorado State will work similarly by emphasizing the consequences of delinquent behavior and by providing holistic and therapeutic methods of alcohol and drug treatment. Various offices on campus, including judicial affairs and student government, will be involved in the drug court.
In the past five years, almost all students who have reached the dismissal disciplinary level have not been retained at the university. The potential loss of tuition is estimated to be one $1 million, but more important, the university loses the opportunity to educate the students at a critical time in their lives.
"We have the chance to make a positive impact in these students’ lives during a crucial decision-making period," said Cheryl Asmus, project director. "If we didn’t intervene at this point, they’d most likely continue their habits in another segment of society. Through the drug court system, we have a good chance to educate and produce a positive change in these students."
Asmus has many years of experience with drug courts and knows first-hand how well they can work. Her experience will provide a strong foundation for the nation’s first collegiate drug court.
"We feel that this type of program, which has been so successful across the country, will be easily adapted to a campus setting," said Asmus.
The project will be run out of the Family and Youth Institute in collaboration with the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at Colorado State. Before Day IV was implemented, three DAY, or Drugs, Alcohol and You, systems had been in place at the Center for Drug and Alcohol Education at the university. These systems included alcohol education and counseling, but had not successfully addressed students who found themselves at the point of dismissal or disciplinary probation after major or recurring infractions.
The drug court system is a natural fit for the Family and Youth Institute, started at the university over three years ago to establish a single source for the numerous and complex issues facing families and youth today. The institute provides education, research and outreach through cooperative extension offices in communities across Colorado and on the university campus.
"The drug court program at Colorado State is a significant addition to the services we provide at the institute," said Mary McPhail Gray, co-director and founder of the Family and Youth Institute. "The program is not based solely on the individual and their problem, but on an entire system of support through parents, employers, the judicial system and the university."
The Eight Judicial District of drug courts in the surrounding community of Fort Collins will play an integral role in collaborating and mentoring with this first campus drug court.
"This is the only jurisdiction in the nation to implement a juvenile, adult and campus drug court," said Stu VanMeveren, district attorney for Larimer County. "We predict the application this type of system at the collegiate level will reduce the recidivism rates of this small but problematic population, making the campus and surrounding community a safer and more civil environment by reducing negative behaviors and incidents."
Colorado State plans to evaluate and report on the feasibility of developing other campus drug court systems across the nation to address high-risk drinking and drug use.
For more information about Day IV, contact Asmus at (970) 491-2292.