Drug court is alive and well

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In May, the Barry County Drug Court will celebrate its one-year anniversary. The local drug court accepted its first participant in May of 2008 and now serves nine individuals. The first year of operations has been exciting and the drug court team has been faced with several challenges. The biggest obstacle was the decision by the state to not fund new drug courts last year.

After participating in training that was paid for through a federal grant and meeting for over a year to plan implementation, the drug court team was ready to get the vital program started in Barry County and did just that. At the time the local drug court accepted its first few participants, the team was operating under the assumption that state funding was on its way - that is what we had been told and what had been happening with drug courts that received federal training grants in the past. In the end, the budget crunch affected funding for expansion of the drug court system in Missouri, and the Barry County Drug Court Team made the decision to continue operating and seek alternative funding until state funding becomes available.

Over the past 10 months, the drug court team has been operating as planned. So far, we have received grants from the Cassville Community Foundation and the Monett Community Foundation, and we also held a successful golf tournament this summer. The drug court team has also received assistance from Clark Mental Health Center, Missouri Probation and Parole and the local court system. Other area drug courts have also been very supportive, and without all these entities, drug court would not have gotten off to such a great start.

This past week, it was announced that the Barry County Drug Court had received a $17,209 grant from the Louis and Dorothy Coover Regional Grantmaking Program, a partnership between the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Commerce Trust Company. This award is a huge boost for drug court and will allow us to serve more participants. It was also an important announcement because it reinforces the fact that Barry County Drug Court is alive and well and making a difference in our communities. We know there has been some misconception out in the public that drug court never started because we didn't have state funding, and that rumor is obviously false. The drug court team and its many supporters are determined to make sure Barry County has this judicial option for offenders whose crime is driven by their addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Drug court meets twice a month. We have participants who have been in the program for nine months and others who entered the program last month. Not everyone who enters the program will graduate, but so far, the successes have far outweighed any failures. Those participating in drug court are actively working to deal with their addiction through their attendance and participation in counseling sessions and self-help meetings. Drug court participants appear before the judge twice a month and submit to frequent drug testing. They also agree to random at-home visits from the court's policing officer.

Drug courts have a proven track record at the national and state levels, and drug court is working in Barry County. The team appreciates all those organizations and individuals who have shown their support for the program, and this week in particular, we thank the Louis and Dorothy Coover Regional Grantmaking Program for their sizable grant award. The money will definitely go a long way toward ensuring Barry County Drug Court's continued viability and growth. The drug court team will also continue to seek state funding. We believe that when monies become available state legislators and the governor will realize that the drug court concept is worth funding and expanding.