Problem Solving Court

Problem Solving Court

Left to right: Dave Kresenske, Clinical Director, Turning Point, Sarah Lind, Parole Agent, Jeffrey Misko, Chief Public Defender, Michele Orlowski, Problem Solving Court Coordinator, President Judge, Oliver J. Lobaugh, D. Shawn White, District Attorney, Rick Orlowski, Director of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Family Service & Children’s Aid Society, Becky White, District Attorney’s Office, Lynn Cummings-Wilson, District Court Administrator, Nicole Baker, Supervisor, PA Board of Probation & Parole, Robert Daugherty, Director, Venango County Adult/Juvenile Court Supervision Services

Missing Team Members: Marie Plumer, Director of Substance Abuse Programs, Trooper Michelle McGee-Morrison, Pennsylvania State Police, Justin Heffernan, Service Coordinator, Human Services

Mission Statement

The mission of the Venango County Problem Solving Court is to enhance public safety by reducing criminal activity and assist substance abusers to become drug and alcohol free, productive and law-abiding citizens.

Program Description

The Venango County Problem Solving Court is a program designed to provide you the opportunity to address your addiction(s) and move beyond criminal behavior.  It is a voluntary program, it is abstinence based and intensive in nature.  You will be required to attend and complete mandatory substance abuse disorder treatment and/or other identified behavioral health needs.  Additionally, you will be required to attend on-going appearances before the judge, weekly face-to-face contact with coordinator/supervision officer based on Phase requirements, case management meetings, support groups/natural supports.  You will be required to comply with random drug testing and address your physical health needs. You are also required to complete community service, obtain employment or pursue educational opportunities, participate in pro-social activities, pay restitution and program fees.  Additional requirements may be order by the Judge.

You will receive the help you need to overcome your addiction while under the strict supervision of the Problem Solving Court Judge.  With the help of your Coordinator, you will develop a case plan to address your needs and identify goals.  Problem Solving Court is unique because it represents a much closer working union between treatment and the criminal justice system than what is traditionally seen in the criminal courts. We are a team that wants to help you change.  The program is a minimum of 18 months and is divided into 5 Phases and graduation. Movement from phase to phase is based on your completion of phase requirements and case plan goals.

The Problem Solving Court is committed to assisting you with early intervention, treatment and support to address your substance abuse problems.  This is great opportunity for you to break the cycle of addiction, build a new way of thinking, feeling and living.  Change is a process that with the help of others is within your reach.

Eligibility

The 28th Judicial District Problem Solving Court will be a post plea program. The Problem Solving Court will screen and assess misdemeanor and felony offenders, provided the crimes are drug-related and/or addiction driven. The offenders must agree to placement in Problem Solving Court and be residents of the 28th Judicial District. Offenders charged with or convicted of violent offenses, as defined by federal and state law, including sex offenses are excluded from participation in Problem Solving Court.

An individual with multiple pending cases will not be automatically excluded from consideration from placement in Problem Solving Court. Offenders facing parole or probation revocation for DUI/drug related violations are also eligible for placement in Problem Solving Court.

The Venango County District Attorney will determine eligibility for the program.  Eligibility will be based on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration a number of factors including but not limited to community safety, the current criminal offense, and previous criminal offenses.  The Venango County District Attorney’s Office values the opinions of crime victims and as such, victims of crime will be consulted and given the opportunity to offer input into inclusion in the program.

If you are charged with, or have been convicted of any of the following offenses in the past 10 years, you are EXCLUDED from consideration:

  • Homicide/Murder/Voluntary Manslaughter
  • Burglary (F1)
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping/Unlawful Restraint/False Imprisonment
  • Aggravated Assault/Simple Assault/Assault by Prisoner
  • Sexual Offenses including Statutory Sexual Assault/Incest
  • Arson and related offenses
  • Recklessly Endangering Another Person
  • Terroristic Threats
  • Riot
  • Stalking
  • Witness Intimidation
  • Causing/Risking a Catastrophe
  • Escape
  • Offenses involving a firearm
  • Theft by Extortion
  • Any crime involving serious bodily injury to another person
  • Possession with the Intent to Deliver (this is not an automatic exclusion but will be looked at on a case-by-case basis)
  • Any other non-enumerated crime of violence

*** Note: list is not exhaustive and should only be used as a guide

Referral/Screening/Risk and Needs Assessment

It is the goal of the Problem Solving Court to place eligible applicants in the program within 30 days of arrest or revocation and/or application.  Research has shown the earlier the intervention with an offender, the greater likelihood of interruption of the related behavior.

Referrals for Problem Solving Court may come from law enforcement, District Attorneys, Magisterial District Judges, Common Pleas Judges, Court Supervision Services, Probation & Parole, Veterans Affairs Office, treatment providers, victims, and defense counsel. The intake point for Problem Solving Court will be at Venango County Court Supervision Services.  The defendant will be provided with a Problem Solving Court application for completion and submission to the Coordinator.  Applications will be available at the District Attorney’s Office. 

The Problem Solving Court Coordinator will complete a Risk and Needs Assessment. This assessment will be used to ensure that the defendants applying for Problem Solving Court are appropriate for placement. Research has shown that Problem Solving Court is best suited for high risk/high needs offenders. If the defendant does not meet criteria for Problem Solving Court, a denial letter will be prepared and forwarded to the defendant, defense counsel, and probation by the District Attorney’s Office.    

Venango County Court Supervision Services will conduct a criminal background check, assessment for EM/HA/alcohol monitoring and LSI-R with results forwarded to District Attorney's Office for further consideration of placement into Problem Solving Court.  The Problem Solving Court Coordinator will refer the defendant with all necessary paperwork to the Venango County Human Services, PIC-Unit for a comprehensive assessment to include a drug and alcohol, mental health assessment along with appropriate case management services as needed.  The PIC-Unit Assessor will utilize the LSI-R results, Pre Sentence Investigation Report, arrest report, criminal complaint, affidavit of probable cause, supervision history, and any other identified needs to be reviewed prior to assessment to ensure an in depth assessment.  The completed drug/alcohol assessment and mental health assessments recommendation will be returned to the Venango County Court Supervision Service, Problem Solving Court Coordinator for inclusion with the application for review.

The matter will be scheduled for staffing with the Problem Solving Court Team and will consists of personnel from the following offices: District Attorney, Defense Counsel, Court Supervision Services, Pa Board of Probation & Parole, Law Enforcement, Problem Solving Court Coordinator, Treatment Providers and the President Judge or his/ her designee. The Problem Solving Court Team will vote on acceptance. In case of a tie, the Problem Solving Court Judge will decide admission. If the application is denied, the District Attorney will notify the applicant. Counsel for the applicant may request reconsideration.