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Juvenile drug court celebrates anniversary

Mar. 01, 2013 @ 12:21 PM

WINFIELD — The Putnam County Juvenile Drug Court celebrated its second anniversary on Thursday in the courtroom of Twenty-Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Phillip M. Stowers in the Putnam County Judicial Building.

The Putnam County Bar Association donated $500 to the drug court.

“Listening to some of the participants of the program, it is clear that they have been using the guidance and support of this new program to help them on their road to a drug-free life,” attorney James B. Atkins, president of the Putnam County Bar Association, wrote in a letter to Judge Stowers telling him of the donation.

“Our members have been witness to your efficient use of limited funds thus far and commend you on your stewardship,” the letter said. “We hope that our community will realize what kind of difference this program is making in the lives of our Putnam County children and consider making contributions as well.”

Twenty-six individuals have graduated from the juvenile drug court since it began operating in 2011, according to a news release from the court. Another 20 currently are enrolled.

The program has saved the state nearly $2 million on inpatient drug treatment costs, Stowers said.

Inpatient juvenile drug treatment for one youth costs about $62,000 for nine months (270 days at $230 per day). Each graduate of drug court was on course to be placed in treatment, he said. A portion of the graduates were looking at incarceration as the next step; one year of juvenile incarceration costs $106,800 per child. By comparison, juvenile drug court costs about $5,000 per participant.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent D. Benjamin lauded the work of the state’s juvenile and adult drug courts while addressing a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in the House of Delegates Chamber. Benjamin said the drug courts save the state millions of dollars, turn potential repeat offenders into productive citizens, keep families together, and help communities prosper.

Those who operate the drug courts — the judicial officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, social workers, counselors, and law enforcement officers — are volunteers, he said. They operate the courts on their own time and without additional pay.

Benjamin began his remarks on Tuesday by talking about country music singer Mindy McCready, who committed suicide earlier this month after struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

“Today, tens of thousands of our fellow West Virginians struggle with drug and mental health issues. Unlike Ms. McCready, ‘Time’ Magazine pays them no heed. The front pages of our news publications do not carry their stories,” Chief Justice Benjamin said.

“They do not come here to talk to you. Indeed, they often hide their struggle, afraid of a world which is quick to condemn, and slow to help. These are our sons and daughters. These are our moms and dads. These are our neighbors. These are our friends,” he said.

“This program is about changing lives and creating responsibility,” Benjamin said.