Westmoreland County to close its day reporting center
Westmoreland County’s Day Reporting Center will close Sept. 1, putting an end to the prison diversionary program that has been marred by criticism and controversy since its inception in 2010.
Court officials announced Friday the center that provided drug treatment and other counseling and training programs at one location for up to eight hours a day would be replaced by a yet undisclosed effort to improve care for addicts.
“This is not indicative of a failure. The treatment of drug addiction is constantly evolving,” said Common Pleas President Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr.
It was judges and court staff that ultimately pulled the plug on the program that operated from private offices in Greensburg that has served as a sort of one-stop shop for up to 100 criminal defendants who are sentenced to intensive probation and counseling programs in lieu of a jail sentence.
As of Friday, the day reporting center had 73 participants sentenced to the facility by the criminal court judges.
Unveiled in 2010, the program was to serve up to 200 defendants at the day reporting center. Court officials halved its capacity after a series of investigations and criminal charges were filed against participants accused of selling and using drugs in the facility.
This year, the Tribune-Review reported that less than half of the center’s nearly 900 participants successfully completed the program over the previous six years.
“It became a little bit of a joke,” said Tim Phillips, executive director of the county’s drug overdose task force. “If we are going to help people, let’s give them the best possible help.”
The center initially was created through the use of state grants and included a menu of potential drug treatment and counseling options as well as mental health programs, job training classes and other health and education courses.
Many of those programs were discontinued over the last several years.
Counseling and treatment programs have been operated by the private, nonprofit Southwest Pennsylvania Human Services Inc. based in Charleroi.
The county pays for two full-time probation officers and two full-time aides to staff the facility along with one deputy sheriff assigned to provide security. Program participants are responsible for paying for the services provided by SPHS counselors either through their own money or via insurance reimbursements.
County staff at the center will be transferred to other programs, officials said.
County officials expressed concern this year after reports surfaced that the center was operating at just 62 percent capacity and discussions with court staff intensified this summer over possible changes to the program.
Christy Scott, the county probation officer who serves as supervisor of the center, said most program participants are required to attend one or two days a week. Only 11 participants report up to five days a week, she said.
“Since January 2017, only nine people have completed the program successfully,” Scott said.
County commissioners said they were not involved in discussions to close the day reporting center.
“I’m inclined to trust their judgment, and I certainly recognize given the ongoing drug epidemic that we need to be in a constant state of adaptation to respond to changing needs,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas.
Court Administrator Amy DeMatt, in a news release announcing the closing, said day reporting clients and future defendants in need of treatment will be directed to other providers who offer a more personalized program for their independent needs.
McCormick said the county’s drug court program , which has been in operation for 18 months, could be expanded to allow more participation. Drug court is capped at 50 enrollees.
“There are other programs available to them. There won’t be a minute where they won’t have a program,” McCormick said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]