JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - With unanimous support, a bill that would allow for the expansion of treatment, or drug courts in Missouri passed through a Senate committee Thursday. The bill's next stop is to the Senate floor for a roll call vote.
The bill, which was filed as House Bill 2, was one of the principle reasons why Gov. Parson called lawmakers to Jefferson City for a special session. The other relates to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in schools.
The bill would allow circuit courts to create their own Treatment Court Division.
Bill sponsor and Rep. Kevin Austin (R-Springfield) advocated for the bill for the Senate Judiciary Committee along with two treatment court judges from Stone and Greene counties.
The specialty courts aim to help those who misuse and abuse drugs by working with them on a personal level, so there are a variety of treatment courts.
"We have drug courts for drug offenders, we have veterans courts for veterans, we have DWI courts and we have family courts," Austin said. "But certainly, there are values and traits and characteristics that are prevalent no matter what community you're in.”
Treatment courts have a 25-year history in Missouri. The first opened in Jackson County.
Supporters of the bill say that history has made Missouri a leader in the nation when it comes to these types of courts.
“Missouri has been a leader in the drug court movement for many years," Stone County Treatment Court Judge Alan Blankenship told the committee Thursday. "This keeps us in the forefront, and in the leadership role that we’ve had.”
"We have been one of the most researched programs in criminal justice that I think has ever existed," said Greene County Treatment Court Judge Peggy Davis. “Research is usually pointing at us and tells us what we do right, and what we do wrong."
The Senate will take up the bill on Friday.