Otter Tail County launches Drug Court

The program is modeled after DWI Court in Otter Tail County District Court.

comish 4.26.jpg
The Otter Tail County commissioners approved a cooperative agreement with the state to have a Drug Court in Otter Tail County during their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

DETROIT LAKES — The newly enacted Drug Court in Otter Tail County has its first three participants.

The Otter Tail County Board approved a cooperative Drug Court agreement between the county and state at it meeting on Tuesday, April 26.

Drug Court Coordinator Tria Mann said up to 25 people can be in the program at a time.

“We don’t want to water down the services we offer, so unless we are able to increase staff, we will keep the number at a manageable rate,” Mann said.

Offenders are given consideration for the specialty court through a screening process, and must not be a violent offender. Once identified as a potential candidate, the offender is offered an incentive to enter the Drug Court, such as a reduced sentence.


While a healthy mind may think no incentive would be needed to get help for an addiction, Mann said those in the grips of their addiction may be in denial or lack motivation to change their life.

Drug Court brings addicts into a program where the early focus is getting treatment for their addiction, as well as addressing any issues with physical health, mental health or spirituality.

“It is individualized to the person,” Mann said.

In addition to a rigorously structured plan, the program participant meets weekly with their probation officer. They also meet bi-weekly with the Drug Court judge for the first six-to-nine months. Judge Kevin Miller will preside over the program.

Drug Court offers inpatient and outpatient services, depending on the individual’s needs. Mann said residential inpatient facilities fill up quickly, and there are not many in the area. Therefore, the Otter Tail County Drug Court will use facilities all over the state and even in North Dakota.

Once the initial primary treatment work begins, the program also addresses housing, employment, schooling and other goals to provide a pathway for a productive life after Drug Court.

“Our goal is, when they are done they have stable housing, are employable, or are employed, legally able to drive, and volunteer in the community,” she said, noting the program length ranges from 15 to 18 months.

After an offender graduates the program, there is typically another six months of probation.


“Addiction needs to be managed, just like living with diabetes,” she said.

Drug Courts are not new to the state. In Minnesota, the first Drug Court began in Hennepin County in 1996. Now, there are more than 30 counties across the state with drug courts, including a successful Drug Court in Becker and Clay counties.

To see what success specialized courts can have, Mann noted Otter Tail County’s DWI Court has been operating since 2008. Since, there was a noticeable drop in repeat offenders.

“The DWI Court has an 18% recidivism rate,” she said, down from about 50% before the program started.

With an increasing rate of substance abuse offenders in the county, a group began looking into Drug Courts in 2020. Mann said that process led to training opportunities on a national and local level, as well as filling out several grant applications.

The Otter Tail County Drug Court program received a $550,000 grant. The grant will be dispersed over four years and pay for a part-time coordinator, compliance officer, supplies for testing those in the program and other necessary materials.

Mann said the dozen team members who worked to make the Drug Court a reality are “happy and relieved” the commissioners approved it and that the necessary grant was received to fund the program.

“It is a huge pat on each others back for getting that accomplished,” She said. “Now, moving forward as professionals, we want to help people."

What To Read Next
Get Local