An update on progress by the Barry County Drug Court was provided for last week's meeting of the Monett Kiwanis Club.
Victor Head, Barry County associate circuit judge, and Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox spoke about the program that both have helped lead since 2008. Drug court provides a court-supervised treatment program as an alternative to mandatory jail time for qualifying participants.
Head called drug court "a community effort," directed by a team of community leaders and both law enforcement and treatment professionals. Following a national model, Drug Court has specific objectives and challenges offenders to improve themselves and thus avoid incarceration.
Participation in drug court requires a minimum of 18 months. Offenders seeking help through drug court are typically high risk and high needs individuals. Head said the panel that oversees participants tries to look at each person and use that person's available resources to overcome the trap of drug use.
The prosecutor and probation officer provide a legal screening of prospective participants. A clinical drug abuse screening is completed with a treatment coordinator. Head said the program is not easy and requires frequent drug screenings and regular sessions with therapists and the drug court team.
Cox said a person from the Barry County Sheriff's office is on the drug court team. Barry County's program has also become a certified DWI Court, providing a mechanism through which driving and driving offenders can get their driver's licenses back. More funding is also available for dealing with drunk driving offenders, Cox added.
Alcohol offenders may have an inter-lock device with a breathalyzer placed in their vehicle to prove sobriety before the vehicle will start. Video cameras may also be installed to confirm the offender is taking the breath test.
Drug court participants must undergo regular drug screenings. Some participants are required to call in daily, meet weekly and attend group meetings. An alumni program has been started that offers encouragement through those who have completed the rigorous drug court requirements.
Alcohol offenders completing the program can get SR22 driver's insurance if they have been sober for 12 months. Graduates can still be spot checked for sobriety for two years.
Kristy, a graduate of Barry County drug court program, told Kiwanians she has been out of the program for two years. She had used methamphetamine and abused alcohol. She completed a two-year recovery program and is now able to care for her two children.
Drug court had seven graduates in its first year and has had 14 graduates since 2010. The program's goal is to make responsible citizens who can be productive in the community.
A major grant funding the drug court program expires at the end of 2012. Head said alternative funding will be sought to keep the program going, including state assistance. The cost to the state to incarcerate an offender is approximately $16,425 per person per year, compared to $7,800 per year for a drug court participant..
Over 40 percent of all cases filed by the Barry County prosecutor in 2007 would be linked to drugs or alcohol. Head was optimistic the program could continue providing help to those willing to make the effort.
The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays for a meal and a program, usually at Happy House restaurant.