West Virginia’s Drug Court program is making a difference.
“Not only does drug court work better than incarceration alone, it also works better than treatment alone…The whole concept behind drug courts is accountability along with treatment,” stressed Robert McKinney, with the state Division of Probation Services.
The annual Drug Court Conference is underway this week in Charleston at the Embassy Suites. Dozens of judges, probation officers and treatment professionals from across West Virginia will spend three days in training sessions to learn how to better operate and administer their programs.
The state currently has 31 counties participating in the adult drug court program. Thirteen counties have juvenile drug courts. Seven more are in the works.
According to the WV Legislature, initial numbers, over a two-year period, show graduates from the adult drug court have a 91-percent success rate. That means they’re staying off drugs and staying out of trouble after they successfully complete the program.
McKinney is a bit cautious.
“We’re very proud of the results, but they’re early results,” he said.
The drug court system is administered by the West Virginia Supreme Court. It’s operated on local, county and regional levels, all with different success rates. But organizers believe they’ve hit on something that works and can rehabilitate drug offenders, young and old.
The prison overcrowding bill passed by state lawmakers requires all 55 counties to have drug courts by the end of 2016. But McKinney says that won’t be easy.
“It requires a lot of work. It requires a lot of commitment from the professionals involved. But that is certainly a goal,” McKinney said.
The three-day conference opened with the keynote address by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin and features workshops on dealing with everything from families to referrals, sanctions to incentives.
Organizers says it’s a great chance for those attending to network and share success stories, what’s worked in their area and how it could be adapted to another.
The conference wraps up Thursday afternoon.