Pubdate: Tue, 07 Jun 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author:  Lindsay Nash
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Program for nonviolent addicts faces severe funding crisis

ASHEVILLE -- Al Clark became a substance abuse counselor in Swain County.

Kathy Grybko became a manger of a food retail store in Morganton.

Juliet Barber became a full-time employee at a Black Mountain restaurant.

Their successes were an outcome of Buncombe County's Drug Treatment Court,
whose future isn't looking nearly as good as the drug offenders it has

After five years of operating on state and private grants, the Drug
Treatment Court is running out of money with little hope of additional state

Court administrators have applied for more money but don't anticipate being
successful, given a planned $1 million cut in Drug Court funding statewide.

"I'm not optimistic for the simple reason that the General Assembly is
facing difficult decisions," said Drug Court Judge Ronald Payne. "But at the
same time, they need to evaluate the efficiency of Drug Courts and how
little it costs to operate them compared a prison."

It costs an average of $3,500 for one participant to go through Drug
Treatment Court for one year. It costs an average of $25,000 for a drug
offender to spend a year in a state prison, said Payne, a Superior Court
judge who serves in Drug Court every other week.

The court's annual budget is about $145,000, with treatment alone for the
participants costing about $70,000. The majority of the money has come from
a Governor's Crime Commission grant, according to Drug Treatment Court
administrator Kyle Moody.

With $9,000 left and no money on the way, doors will be shutting within the
next two months, Moody said.

"I'm just concerned for the people in the program," Moody said.

Drug Courts are a growing trend, with more than 1,000 nationwide. Buncombe
County's Drug Treatment Court is one of 13 in North Carolina.

Rep. Bruce Goforth, D-Buncombe, hopes the state House will find money to
fund the program.

"I think it's a great program and I hope we find some funding for it," said
Goforth, who said there's still a possibility the program will get some

Established in December 2000, the court works with about 40 nonviolent drug
offenders a year,

holding them accountable for changing their lives

and overcoming their


Participants include offenders who have pleaded guilty to a criminal charge
with the understanding that the active sentence will be deferred and charges
will be dropped if they complete the program. If they fail, the original
sentence will be imposed.

"Drug Court is a wonderful thing," said Clark, who was addicted to
painkillers for 20 years before entering Buncombe County's program. "It
really forces people to adhere to society's rules and norms."

Grybko, who was addicted to OxyContin, graduated from the program in April
with a new profession and a greater sense of pride.

"They gave me a lot of support and the structure I needed," she said.

Juliet Barber, who graduated from the program in November, said it was the
structure and guidance that Drug Court offered that changed her life.

"It helps to have some kind of guidance," said Barber, who was once addicted
to crack cocaine. "You have to have somebody to teach you the right way.
Tough love helps."

Barber has been clean for four years. She has a steady job, a requirement of
Drug Court, and has learned self-respect.

"The strict rules gave me more respect for myself," she said. "It made me
want to live. It made me want to grow older and have something for myself."

Since the court's inception in 2000, 39 people have graduated from the
program. Of those, five were re-arrested, giving the program a recidivism
rate of about 15 percent. The Drug Court recidivism rate nationwide is about
16 percent, one year after graduation.

"What more does Raleigh need to know?" Moody asked. "The program works and
it's cost effective. There is nothing else we can say."
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