Key figures in the Barry County Drug Court program and some of the program participants explained the benefits of the targeted approach to drug abuse at a recent meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.
Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox and Associate Circuit Court Judge Victor Head described how Drug Court works. Cox said offenders who have committed drug-related Class C or Class D felonies are eligible for the program.
Around half of the felony offenders placed in Drug Court are first-time offenders, Cox said. Only those who have committed non-violent crimes may be considered for the program. Those allowed into Drug Court are told to complete the program or go to jail. Cox said the goal is for participants to go to regular support group meetings, meet with therapists as directed and find employment within three months.
Judge Head said an offender can apply to the court to be considered. Members of the Barry County Drug Court Planning Team review the applicants to consider who is a good risk and who will likely succeed.
Participants must meet with professional counselors, sometimes several times a week, and attend meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous. Drug court participants must also complete a specified number of community service hours. Head said each person must pay costs for the program that add up to $1,200.
Head said the program is very strict. Those who do not attend prescribed meetings or fail drug tests may be removed from the program and face jail time. The biggest advantage of the program is becoming drug and alcohol free. In most cases, those who complete the program will have the charges against them dismissed.
Head expressed appreciation to the Clark Community Mental Health Center, which has provided Drug Court with counselors since the program's inception.
Drug Court has received good community support. Head said financial donations have been very important, because the local Drug Court program is the only one in the state that does not receive state or federal funding.
Drug Court meets twice a month on Thursday afternoons. Sessions are open to the public. Records of each participant are reviewed during the meetings. Fifteen people are presently in the program, and five have graduated to date.
Cindy Puryeur, who serves as the Drug Court coordinator, said the program has benefited from regular financial support. A $15,000 grant has been received from the Monett Community Foundation. Another grant for $17,000 has been awarded by the Harry Cooper Supply Company.
Michael Rust, who is presently one of the participants, described how he began using marijuana at age 12. He began using methamphetamine at age 17 and continued to use the drug for approximately 25 years. Rust admitted he was a danger to the community and had been arrested 10 to 15 times.
Through Drug Court, Rust is now clean and sober. Stringent drug testing requirements force accountability, which Rust said was a big benefit of the program.
Because of Drug Court, Rust said he had found God, a good girlfriend and a good church. While a drug program can help keep him clean, Rust said God will help stay continue that way.
Occasionally Rust will encounter some of his old friends. He may help them, but Rust said he will not associate with them. He now drives two church buses and has a job at Crosslines.
"I'm grateful every day for Drug Court," Rust said.
Other speakers included Earl Best, a drug treatment provider, and other participants in the program. Members of the local Drug Court team include: Judge Head, Cox, Best, Puryear, Nancy Foulke, Lisa Schlichtman, Brian Landreth, Dana Kammerlohr and Don Trotter.
Kiwanis Vice President Frank Washburn presided at the meeting. Clif Crockett was the program chairman.
In club news, a Peanut Day fundraiser has been scheduled for Oct. 8. The Kiwanis installation banquet will be held on Oct. 12 at Grant's restaurant.
The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesday for a meal and a program, usually at Happy House restaurant.