James Baker couldn’t stop using drugs until he climbed out of his depression. Fortunately for Baker, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, his scrape with drug laws was assigned to the St. Louis City Drug Court, which has a pioneering program to focus on treating mental illness as well as substance addiction. Baker graduated from the program last year and returned yesterday to share his story with drug court professionals gathered in St. Louis this week for their 14th annual national conference.
Drug courts offer treatment to nonviolent offenders whose records are expunged if they complete the program. The St. Louis program is one of the first in the nation to provide mental health help too. St. Louis created the innovative approach, which it calls a “co-occurring docket,” in 2003 when many drug courts in the U.S. were still getting off the ground. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), said to be the first onetime drug court professional to reach Congress, is to be among those honored at a luncheon today.