Treatment First Program and STOP Court



Since 1991, the Multnomah County Sanctions Treatment Opportunities Progress (STOP) Drug Court has been available for most people that are charged in Multnomah County with a felony drug possession crime. The objective for STOP Court is to significantly reduce drug abuse within the community. Throughout the years, STOP Court has assisted in the reduction of harm from the use of controlled substances and a reduction in recidivism within the community.

With the passage of HB 3194 during the 2013 Oregon Legislative session, the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) was charged with developing evidence-based standards and best practices to be applied to specialty courts. Many of its suggested standards are in conflict with STOP Court’s current practice: STOP Court does not use standardized, objective, validated risk and need screening and assessment tools to assess the risk and need of the potential adult drug court candidate, nor does it target individuals classified as moderate to high risk and high need.  The agencies that collaboratively implement STOP Court acknowledges the need to adjust the way we approach treatment and dosage for individual offenders based on risk and need, in addition to other factors. To that end, the Treatment First Program concept will involve the use of a validated risk and needs assessment tool and, because the Treatment First Program will serve a mixed population of low risk/need and moderate to high risk/need offenders, the program will provide separate tracks and separate group treatment services to ensure low risk offenders are not attending group sessions with moderate and high risk offenders and that their specific needs are met. Defendants with low risk and low needs will be assigned a Community Court treatment and supervision track. The Treatment First model reserves the STOP Court for the highest need, highest risk individuals while creating alternative tracks that match program design to offender needs and profiles. By creating multiple treatment tracks besides the STOP Court, the county is able to provide an appropriate system response to offenders who are non-addicted and/or low risk.  Finally, the Treatment First Program is intended to replace the Expedited Plea Docket (X-Plea) in Justice Center Room 2 (JC2) for possession cases.

We are further aware of the fact that a very significant disproportionate number of persons of color are being arrested and referred to, and inserted into, the criminal justice system for these offenses. We endeavor to reduce the negative impact of criminal justice involvement and its associated collateral consequences and embrace a “treatment first” philosophy.

The Treatment First Program will be a partnership of the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office (MCDA), the Multnomah County Circuit Court (MCCC), defense services (Metropolitan Public Defenders, Multnomah Defenders Inc. and others), the Department of Community Justice (DCJ), local law enforcement and community treatment providers. The Treatment First Program is dedicated to helping individuals break their drug dependent lifestyle, reuniting families, reducing the recidivism rate, and improving public safety in Multnomah County.

The Treatment First Program will involve significant data collection and outcomes research. Participant data will be monitored and analyzed on a regular basis to determine the effectiveness of the program. Monitoring may include comparing historically disadvantaged groups to the other participants, to identify—and work to address—any areas of inequity in program access, treatment, responses to behavior, and dispositions.


Core principles of the Treatment First Program approach include:

  • The Treatment First team shall include the following roles/agencies: judge, prosecuting and defense attorneys, local law enforcement and treatment provider(s).
  • Using a primarily non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights.
  • Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed into the Treatment First Program.
  • Assessment for substance use disorders and other treatment needs shall be conducted by appropriately trained and qualified professional staff familiar with the harm reduction philosophy.
  • Provide the correct treatment dosage to participants depending on risk/need level.
  • Qualifying felony Possession of Controlled Substance offenses (we believe the vast majority of cases) will be immediately reduced to misdemeanor offenses and be eligible for the Treatment First Program. We endeavor to emphasize treatment over punitive sanctions. Successful completion of the Treatment First Program will result in dismissal, or reduction of the offense.
  • An appropriate individualized treatment plan must be balanced with personal and social responsibility, accountability, and public safety.