The People Behind Dallas County: Mark Faust
This story is part of the Dallas County Messenger’s series showcasing the people serving Dallas County. Mark Faust is a field surveillance operator in Dallas County’s Diversion and Expedited Rehabilitation and Treatment (DIVERT) Court.
In 1998, our current District Attorney, Judge John Creuzot, then a sitting criminal district-court judge, established Dallas County’s first-ever specialty court for drug offenses, the DIVERT Court. After serving as a probation officer for over 13 years, Mark started working for Dallas County’s DIVERT Court in 1999 when it was one of only four drug courts in Texas. His guidance helped to create a vision that brought success to the court and provided a framework for other drug courts in Dallas to follow.
Criminal Justice Department Director Charlene Randolph says, “Mark is an invaluable asset to the DIVERT Court team because he appropriately advocates, admonishes and advises. He will proudly tell you his story of being sober for 30-plus years, and he knows just about every recovery group in Dallas County (and those in surrounding counties). Often, Mark provides a voice for our clients struggling with addiction. His compassion and unflagging desire to help others is evident in his daily work. The DIVERT Court team can rely on him to be ‘in the know’ regarding clients’ needs and lives. He helps to connect the dots in the maze of recovery, and clients of the DIVERT Court consistently benefit from his resourcefulness.” Read the Dallas County Messenger’s conversation with Mark below.
Explain your specific role at Dallas County.
I meet with DIVERT Court clients and their families and then relay relevant information about them to my team. I discuss patterns of recovery with clients and provide community resources to their family members who are usually suffering as much or more as our clients and are powerfully influential in our clients’ lives. Additionally, I take drug tests to our clients’ homes, and when I do, I leave my personal mobile number so that they may contact me directly with questions or concerns. This helps my team and I make useful information and patterning discoveries.
What motivates you to continue serving as a field surveillance operator?
Clients who participate in the DIVERT Court Program possess serious drug- and/or alcohol-related problems that require professional intervention. My goal is to try to help as many of our clients live as possible. It’s easy to get passionate about life and death.
What would Dallas County residents be pleasantly surprised to learn about the DIVERT Court?
Most would be surprised to learn about the precision and depth of the attention paid to processing individuals through Dallas County’s courts. There are multiple efforts made to provide exit ramps off the trail to jail for those with problems that may be addressed without community separation and incarceration.
Of what accomplishments are you most proud?
I feel immensely proud when I see graduates of our program doing well in the community and sharing with others the same life-giving set of instructions they received. For example, when I was explaining the program to a new client, he stopped me and said, “I can save you from delivering your whole speech because I recently met two program alumni who told me all about it.” It’s amazing to watch the ripple-effect of this program in the community.
What’s an example of a creative solution that the DIVERT Court deployed to improve a Dallas County process or help a Dallas County resident?
At beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, my team was directed to pause our in-person operations. About six weeks later, I received a call from a mother whose three-year-old daughter walked into the kitchen with a bloody tissue and asked, “What is daddy doing in the bathroom?” In that moment, I searched my home for a mask and went to the client’s home to administer a drug test and confirmed he had resumed using drugs. In drug-court programs, it is essential that our clients experience consequences for drug and/or alcohol use close to the time when they abused these substances. The feedback loop must remain tight, and I did what I had to do to keep this client accountable sober and clean despite the extraordinary circumstances.
“We have the catbird seat for watching miracles happen.”Mark Faust, DIVERT Court Field Surveillance Operator
What is your favorite part of working for Dallas County?
The people. I am surrounded by counselors and case managers at the DIVERT Court who want to be there. We work together as a team to bring various levels of expertise to our clients. I’m proud that we all let our own humanity inform our decision-making processes. We have the catbird seat for watching miracles happen.
This conversation is edited for clarity.