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Grant funds secured for drug court

La Salle County State’s Attorney Karen Donnelly has found grant funding for a drug court.

Donnelly announced on Friday that the county has been awarded an Adult Redeploy Illinois (ARI) drug court implementation grant of $124,335, which she said will cover all expenses for the drug court for the year.

She added that the grant can be requested on an annual basis and is often awarded annually when the program is operating as expected.

She thanked her assistant, Amanda Zaver, for her “hard work and efforts” in getting the grant.

"It about brings tears to your eyes to know the hard work paid off," Donnelly said in a phone interview.

The grant was denied on the first application, but Donnelly used the feedback to reapply. Additionally, the results of an additional federal grant application will be revealed at the end of September.

The drug court is planned to be operating by November but prior to that it will need to be certified by the state of Illinois. An application has been sent and state officials will visit the area to meet with Donnelly as well as others involved in the program, including Circuit Judge Cynthia Raccuglia, who will preside over the drug court.

The drug court will bring together prosecutors, defense attorneys and social workers to help low-level drug-related offenders, using a collaborative rather than adversarial approach.

Northern Illinois University will also be partnering with the county on the drug court and plans to send graduate students to the area to help educate those in the court to apply for benefits and fill out job applications.

Donnelly has been working toward implementing a drug court for the county since taking office and has noted that 49 percent of county crime is connected to drugs.

"Drugs are so prevalent in our community and the criminal justice system has failed these people. When something doesn't work you need to look at something else," Donnelly said.

"If we can do something to get rid of or treat drug addiction, then maybe some of these other crimes will reduce," she added.

She noted it's a program that's already in place in Grundy County.

Donnelly said the drug court won't be easy, but those who really work toward being productive members of society will receive the help they need.

"It's going to depend on the people who want treatment and want help," she said.

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