By Wendy Holdren
With drug addiction starting at a younger and younger age, officials from the West Virginia Division of Probation Services are encouraging Raleigh County leaders to establish a Juvenile Drug Court to help deter the number of youth addicts.
Lora J. Maynard, deputy director for drug courts, gave a presentation Tuesday to local law enforcement officers and judicial representatives about what a Juvenile Drug Court does and the benefits it can provide to the area.
Juvenile Drug Court is a cooperative effort between the judicial system, social services, law enforcement, educational institutions and parents to put non-violent youth offenders into treatment programs.
Maynard said the goal is to see early signs of addiction in youth ages 10 to 17 and stop those behaviors as soon as possible.
“West Virginia is one of the top 10 states for illicit drug dependence between the ages of 18 and 25. We want to target them before the dependence starts,” said Maynard.
Currently, there are 16 Juvenile Drug Courts in the state, covering 20 counties. Between 2007 and 2012, there have been 201 graduates from the program.
Maynard explained that the program typically lasts 32 weeks, sometimes longer depending on the individual, and is monitored by a drug court probation officer.
The youth will be required to participate in random, frequent and observed drug testing, as well as attending counseling sessions with a parent or guardian.
Not only does the program focus on treatment and accountability versus punishment, but the system is highly cost effective.
Over an eight-month period, Maynard said supervision and treatment of a juvenile in this program costs $6,403.
However, if that individual were to be treated at Olympia Center in Kingwood, it would cost $44,000. Additionally, if that person were to go to River Park Hospital in Huntington, treatment would cost $99,000.
Participants in the program must be referred by a law enforcement officer, judicial officer, school, probation officer, prosecutor, parent or the Department of Health and Human Resources. Referrals require a chargeable offense and the youth must be clinically assessed prior to admission.
“I think this is definitely something to look into,” Beckley Police Chief Tim Deems said. “It sounds like it is working in other areas of the state, and with drug problems, early intervention with kids is necessary.”
Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller said the representatives contacted her office to set up the presentation Tuesday, and she said she was very impressed with what they had to say.
“This is very different from adult drug court. So many kids come from environments where addiction is the norm. We see so many 10-, 11-, 12-year-olds who are already substance dependent.”
She also added that this program would be at no cost to Raleigh County, and would led to “enormous cost savings” in the future.
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