Pubdate: Wed, 30 Aug 2006
Source: Morganton News Herald, The (NC)
Copyright: 2006, Media General Inc.
Author: Sharon McBrayer
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


MORGANTON - A new program slated for Burke County in the coming year
will target drug users.

But the program is intended to help those convicted of drug charges.
In turn, the Burke County Drug Treatment Court will help the
community, says Reva Cook, director of the Catawba County Drug
Treatment Court.

The court has existed in Catawba County since 2001. A similar court
will start in Burke County in January.

It has seen limited success.

Those chosen for drug court have been convicted of drug charges,
aren't doing well on probation - aren't meeting with their probation
officer or aren't meeting the terms of their probation - and are at
risk of going back to jail, Cook says.

Drug court is one way for those chosen to stay out of jail. The
program typically takes about 15 months to complete, according to
information from the Catawba County Drug Treatment Court.

Those selected for the court receive treatment for their addictions,
are required to attend 12-step programs, submit to drug tests, show up
for court twice a month and work or be enrolled in school.

Fewer than half the people in Catawba's drug court actually completed
it. Cook says 81 people have gone through the court since 2001, with
29 finishing.

Four people who have completed the program have been

Still, Cook considers drug court a success. She points to a man who is
now enrolled in law school and a person who sits on the board of
directors of the Cognitive Connection, which is the treatment provider
for the drug court. The Cognitive Connection in Morganton also will
provide treatment in Burke County, Cook says.

Cook says requiring treatment for people who have been convicted of
drug offenses makes the community safer.

Burke County Sheriff's Lt. Becky Brendle says about 80 percent of
crimes committed in the county are drug related.

"Most all of the robberies I've worked are drug related," Brendle
says. In addition, assaults, larcenies, domestic violence cases and
even some murders have been drug related.

"Either they're doing drugs when (they) commit the crime or they're
doing the crime to get the drugs," Brendle says.

According to information from the North Carolina Court System, there
were 1,448 people charged with drug offenses in Burke County during
fiscal year 2005-06. Those charges ranged from obtaining a controlled
substance by fraud or forgery to possession of marijuana and

A $450,000 federal Bureau of Justice Assistance grant will pay for the
drug court for three years.

If Burke County runs the program correctly, the local drug court will
be eligible for another three-year grant, Cook says.
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