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Spokane nonprofit expands into drug treatment for people in federal probation program

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 23, 2018, 8:28 a.m.

Dan Sigler, regional director for Pioneer Human Services, speaks during an open house, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. Pioneer Human Services is doubling the size of its clinic at 901 W. Boone Avenue, which provides counseling and treatment for people in drug court or on probation. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Dan Sigler, regional director for Pioneer Human Services, speaks during an open house, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. Pioneer Human Services is doubling the size of its clinic at 901 W. Boone Avenue, which provides counseling and treatment for people in drug court or on probation. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Pioneer Human Services has expanded drug treatment services at its office in central Spokane, where it’s now treating people under federal probation supervision.

The nonprofit held an open house Monday to celebrate its expansion at the Emerson Clinic, which opened in 2015 and primarily serves people going through a diversion program for drug-related crimes in Spokane County Superior Court.

In drug court, defendants participate in a yearlong program of intensive counseling and court monitoring. If they successfully complete the program, their felony charges will be dropped.

Sandy Altshuler, the drug court administrator, said Pioneer brings extra support to its contract with the county by providing extra services like help with transportation, making it easier for people to focus on recovery.

The program works: The two-year recidivism rate for graduates is about 30 percent within two years, Altshuler said. While that might sound high, about 85 to 90 percent of people with substance abuse problems who don’t go through drug court will reoffend in the same period.

“Nationally, drug courts have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country,” she said.

Superior Court Judge Harold Clarke said that’s thanks to the hard work of counselors who strike the balance between compassion and accountability with clients every day.

“That’s an incredible result and I don’t thunk we should ever lose track of that,” Clarke said.

Pioneer will now take on new clients through the federal court system, providing urine and breathalyzer tests for about 80 people, and counseling services for about 65, said clinic director Katrina Bryant.

The Emerson Clinic expanded to the ground floor of its existing office to accommodate the additional clients through a contract that started in October.

Dan Sigler, Pioneer’s regional director for the Spokane area, said people coming out of prison usually want to get their lives back on track, but struggle because of untreated addictions, mental health issues and challenges finding jobs or keeping up with new technologies.

“They generally come back wanting to do really well. Their intentions are good,” Sigler said. With help from an agency like Pioneer to find housing and jobs, they have a better chance of success.

Some of their clients are people involved in the federal justice system who are released pretrial or presentencing, while others are coming out of federal prison.

It’s not a job for every counselor, Bryant said.

“Each and every one of the counselors here cares tremendously about their patients while holding them accountable. That’s very hard to do,” she said.

This article was updated to correct the services Pioneer provides to drug court patients. They do not provide child care; drug court contracts with another agency for those services.


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