SAN ANTONIO - The state has made it official: Bexar County has the chance to be the first county in Texas to have a drug court specifically for domestic violence offenders.
Now, the work starts for Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, who has to form a team and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a task she's ready to take on, saying this program could lower the number of abuse victims in our community.
"We've called over 5,000 cases since Jan. 1 in this court alone," Speedlin Gonzalez said
She presides over one of two domestic violence county courts and said a rampant and uncontrolled abuse problem in Bexar County needs an unorthodox approach.
"In Texas, violent offender programs do not get funded. Historically, it's only been punitive measures. It's not popular to help the offender, but let's look at the problem with domestic violence. We're not addressing the source of the behavior," she said.
One proven source is substance abuse.
"Over 85% of the cases that come through domestic violence court involve substance abuse at some level," she said.
Speedlin Gonzalez wants to take first-time offenders with any substances mentioned in their arrest and funnel them into a domestic violence drug court that's structured a lot like other specialty drug courts in our county.
"We know they're going to get more supervision. We know they're going to get tested randomly for drugs on a more frequent basis. We know they have to do individual therapy, some group sessions, making sure they're addressing their trauma and hand in hand, their substance abuse," she said.
There are more than 400 domestic violence drug courts in the nation, but none currently in Texas. So the state's recent approval means Speedlin Gonzalez could make history.
But first, she needs funding.
The state is not offering money yet, wanting to gauge the program's success. So Speedlin Gonzalez will be speaking with the city, county and private donors about her budget of $500,000 a year.
"We're open to saying, 'Give us a year's worth. We'll show you what we can do in a year.' That gives us some time to look at other funding sources but get this program started," she said.
To set the stage, Speedlin Gonzalez is already ordering defendants who have been found guilty by a jury to trauma therapy, which they have to pay for out of pocket.
She believes that is more effective than community service and/or fines.
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