Bill Seeks Funds for Tazewell Drug Courts

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RICHMOND — Drug courts in Tazewell County would receive state funding if a proposed bill continues its movement through the Senate.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, D-Tazewell, presented Senate Bill 678 to provide state funding for permanently establishing effective treatment programs designed to reduce the incidence of drug use and drug addiction. The bill passed in the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice with an 11-4 vote Tuesday. The bill now will move to the Senate Finance Committee.

Pucketts legislative assistant, David T. Larimer, said the bill was part of a process needed to change Tazewell Countys existing drug court from a pilot program to a permanent one.

Dennis H. Lee, the Commonwealths Attorney of Tazewell, said the program has been operating with no state funding.

The program has had help from Cumberland Mountain Community Service, the probation office and many faith-based organizations, Lee said.

Jane Peay is Cumberland Mountain Community Services director of substance abuse services and also is listed as the contact person for Tazewells drug court.
Weve all committed our time, Peay said. And weve gone through the process.

The process, which began in February 2005 with a federal-planning grant, will be complete if the bill is successful.

There are 10 to 12 slots available now, Peay said. Once the bill passes, it will certainly allow us to have many more.

Out of 900 people on probation in Tazewell, 50 percent of them are eligible for drug court, Peay said.

The program is uniform throughout the Virginia counties and cities that participate.  According to Virginias Judicial System Web site, drug courts operate differently from traditional courts by creating a partnership between the judge, the commonwealths attorney, probation officers and treatment professionals. This cooperation helps with the treatment and monitoring of defendants.
Part of the Virginia Drug Treatment Court Programs mission statement is to stop the revolving courtroom door by breaking the cycle of addiction, crime and repeat incarceration.

Lee said that is exactly what has happened in Tazewell.

Weve not had any graduates come back on felony charges, Lee said. The attention and close supervision has turned around a lot of people.
There have even been two healthy, non-addicted babies born to two of our graduates, Lee said.

Peay agreed the program is a success.

She said 100 percent of the graduates were employed or involved in educational pursuits at the time of graduation.

Weve really only scratched the surface of what we can do, Peay said.

More help might be possible if the bill passes and Tazewells drug court receives state funding.

We will not get in this coming budget cycle, Lee said. But next year we will hopefully share in the pie.

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