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The public can learn more about the new Goldilocks program, a new initiative that changes how drug crimes are prosecuted, at an event at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16 at Mosaic Medical’s east Bend Clinic, 2084 NE Professional Court.

The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office is starting a program Friday that puts those arrested for small amounts of illegal drugs in treatment rather than behind bars, but seeks maximum prison time for drug dealers.

District Attorney John Hummel said the Goldilocks program will find the right intervention for each drug suspect’s crime, hence the literary nod to the children’s story. It will give low-level offenders a chance to avoid felony convictions that often lead to hurdles in employment and housing, Hummel said.

“The whole concept of this is we are diverting you from the criminal justice system,” he said.

When an officer arrests someone for drug possession, the person will be invited to a Friday evening meeting at the Central Oregon Collective in Bend to meet with Hummel, a defense attorney and a drug and alcohol assessment professional.

Those in need of drug treatment and medical care will be able to visit a Mosaic Medical clinic or La Pine Community Health Center.

If the person benefits from treatment and remains crime-free for a year, the drug possession charge will be dropped, Hummel said.

Those arrested for a more serious drug crime than possession will be prosecuted in the traditional way. And Hummel will seek the maximum prison sentence for those charged with a commercial drug offense or selling drugs to a minor.

Before launching the program, Hummel held multiple public meetings and worked with physicians, drug counselors and public defenders. The input he gathered led him to focus on drug crimes, which has one of the biggest impacts of any crime in the community.

“I thought, ‘Let’s come up with a goal that is tangible and attainable,’” he said.

Hummel found drug crimes in Deschutes County have the highest recidivism rate of 46 percent, followed by theft at 41 percent, according to data his office keeps. He also found that those arrested for drugs and theft were the most common drug-related crime combination. So if the Goldilocks program can reduce drug crimes, it could reduce theft, Hummel said.

Hummel presented his findings and plan Nov. 1 to the Bend City Council. He explained that low-level drug offenders referred to Mosaic Medical or La Pine Community Health Center will get health checkups, not just drug treatment. Hummel said he has often seen drug users who have health issues that keep them from getting clean from drugs.

“People using drugs, we are going to get them quickly in the medical system, and we are going to provide complete health care, not just substance-abuse treatment,” Hummel said at the council meeting. “And if you are dealing drugs, we are going to seek to incapacitate you by putting you in prison.”

Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie, who’s a physician at Mosaic Medical, said at the meeting that the Goldilocks program fits nicely with work being done at Mosaic. The clinic is developing a substance-abuse treatment embedded into primary care.

“We were able to pull these two things and sew them together,” Boddie told the council. “The fact that these two things came simultaneously is really impressive.”

Boddie said substance abuse and medical problems go hand in hand. Nobody will be denied access, but they will have to use their health insurance or be on a sliding fee scale if they are uninsured. Mosaic Medical has insurance coordinators to help people get covered, Boddie said.

“It’s still a lot cheaper than attorney’s fees and the criminal cost of things, and they are getting healthier at the same time,” Boddie said.

The Goldilocks initiative was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Both organizations offered a staff person to help research data and help create the program, Hummel said.

As the program develops, Hummel will monitor how it is working. He is confident it will be successful, especially compared to the status quo of high recidivism for drug crimes. But if the data shows a different story, Hummel is open to rethinking the approach.

“We expect (to see) better recidivism,” he said. “If we don’t, we will modify the program or scrap it.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com