---- — Now that Effingham County Drug Court has been operating for several years, Effingham County probation officials are seeking to expand the program to include mentally ill and military veteran offenders.
Chief Probation Officer Cheryl Meyers told an Effingham County Board committee Thursday she had applied for a $200,000 grant that would enable "specialty courts" to be established in Effingham and Christian counties. Meyers said the money would be coming from Adult Redeploy Initiative, a program of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority that seeks to keep nonviolent offenders out of the prison system by providing intensive services to local communities.
"Programs such as this have been found to be much more effective in reducing recidivism," Meyers said.
In a specialty court program, offenders can stay out of jail if they comply with numerous requirements. Once they complete those requirements, they "graduate" and the initial charge for which they were arrested is removed from their record.
Also Thursday, Meyers informed the Tax & Finance Committee of the Whole that she was sending 10 people involved with the local Drug Court program to the National Association of Drug Courts annual convention. She said Adult Redeploy Initiative will reimburse the county for its expense after the new state fiscal year begins July 1.
The committee recommended that travel, lodging and convention fees be paid, pending reimbursement.
In other action Thursday, the committee recommended a purchase of service agreement with Effingham County Public Transit for participation in an extended hours program. Kevin Bushur, chief operations officer and transportation director for CEFS social service agency, said the "Job Access Reverse Commute" program will enable second- and third-shirt workers to have transportation to and from work.
Bushur said the transit program received $71,000 to extend its hours. He added $19,000 of that will go to Rides Mass Transit, one of two service providers in the system. Rides already offers service to Effingham County after regular business hours.
Bushur said the program would probably increase hours gradually, depending on demand.
"We're going to advertise that this service is available, but we're not going to have drivers on call if there is no demand," he said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.