The genesis for the Washington State Association of Drug Court Professionals (WSADCP) arose from a conversation of Washington State attendees to a National Drug Court conference that took place in Los Angeles, May 17, 1997. The attendees included Judge Bruce Cohoe, Pierce County Superior Court; Judge Ken Williams, Clallam County Superior Court; Terree Schmidt-Whelan, Executive Director, Pierce County Alliance; Mary Taylor, King County Drug Diversion Court; and Steve Freng, NW High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The notion was to organize an association modeled on the just-forming National Association of Drug Court Professionals, focused on encouraging and facilitating the development of drug treatment courts across Washington State.

To formalize the effort, the attendees mentioned above and approximately 25 other interested parties from across the state met at the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation (CHEF) facilities in the SeaTac area. The group formalized a plan for the WSADCP, created a board of directors, developed by-laws and Articles of Incorporation as a 501(c)(3), and prepared a tentative schedule for future business meetings and state-wide conferences.

Over the subsequent years, the WSADCP expanded and sought funding to sustain its operations and the planned annual conferences. A 501(c)(6) corporation, Washington Association of Drug Courts (WADC), was established on December 30, 2000, to pursue education and lobbying efforts aimed at gaining awareness and support from the state legislature to advance the concept of drug treatment courts across the state. In 2003, two influential Washington State legislators attended National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP)’s annual conference in Washington D.C. along with other WSADCP members, to learn more about the efficacy of drug treatment courts and their capacity to address the challenging, intertwined problems of substance use and criminal activity. By combining the judicial process with the treatment process, drug courts were showing real promise in both reducing criminal and substance use recidivism while saving many thousands of dollars in incarceration and long-term welfare costs.

Because of the WSADCP and WADC efforts, Washington State was one of the nation’s leaders in adopting the drug court concept. With the establishment of the King County and Pierce County drug courts in 1994 (number 12 and 17 in the nation) and one in Spokane County in 1996, Washington State had 3 of the first 5 drug courts on the West Coast. Washington State now boasts an estimated 44 drug treatment courts, having joined a membership of approximately 3,000 nationwide drug courts and other therapeutic courts modeled on their success.

The WSADCP has expanded its budget and capacity to host several hundred attendees at its annual conference. Sponsorship by the State’s Department of Social and Health Services Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DSHS/DBHR) and Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has been instrumental in supporting WSADCP’s annual conference that provides training and support for the use of best practices in all therapeutic courts statewide. WSADCP and WADC has assiduously recruited board members from across the state, representing all sectors of involved participants, including the judiciary, prosecution, defense counsel, treatment professionals, court coordinators, therapeutic court alumni, and law enforcement.

Due to its early and active involvement in the advancement of the drug treatment court model, the WSADCP has been recognized by All Rise (the national therapeutic court association that was previously known as NADCP or National Association of Drug Court Professionals) and influential in the national treatment court movement. In 2006, West Huddleston, Executive Director of the NADCP, was the keynote speaker for the WSADCP Annual Conference. Terree Schmidt-Whelan, Executive Director of the Pierce County Alliance, served on the NADCP Board for the 2006-2010 term.

Learn about the Origins of the Criminal Justice Treatment Account (CJTA) and State Drug Court Funding.