WAYNE -– The Wayne County Juvenile Drug Court Diversion Program will begin operating during a ceremony at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 18 in Wayne Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt's courtroom in the Wayne County Courthouse.

The pre-adjudicatory juvenile drug court program is the first of its kind in West Virginia.

The program will serve youths ages 10 to 17 who have substance abuse or alcohol abuse problems and who are charged with non-violent misdemeanor or felony offenses or alcohol-related status offenses.

Prosecutors will not file juvenile petitions against youths who agree to participate. If they complete the program, which can take up to 42 weeks, no further action is taken against them. If youths do not complete the program, petitions will be filed and Judge Pratt will proceed with adjudication and disposition.

Wayne County Juvenile Referee Christopher Dean will identify youths eligible for participation in the program, which will include regular drug testing and court appearances as well as individual and family counseling. Youths will receive six months of aftercare services.

Statewide, 8.8 percent of all delinquency offenses in 2005 were for drug-related charges, while nearly twenty percent of Wayne County's delinquency offenses that year were drug related, according to the Juvenile Justice Database. Although in Wayne County the overall youth use of marijuana and cocaine was just under the state average in 2005, Wayne County youth had a higher than average use of inhalants, barbiturates, Ecstasy and Oxycontin, according to the Prevention Resource Center, State Incentive Grant.

Wayne County youth also perceive they have easy access to drugs. Youth perception of easy access is higher than the state rate in nine areas: marijuana, amphetamines, barbiturates, inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, steroids, Ecstacy, and Oxycontin. Adult use of marijuana and cocaine is higher in Wayne County than the state average, according to the Prevention Resource Center.

Supreme Court Director of Probation Services Mike Lacy and Director of Court Services Angela Saunders provided technical assistance to start the program. The Supreme Court will pay for drug testing.

"It is vital that diversion, intervention and treatment be provided for the youth of Wayne County to decrease this escalating problem," said Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis. "Drug Courts have proven to be successful. Hopefully, establishing a Juvenile Drug Court in Wayne County also will help decrease adult drug use in the county."

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse provided an $84,000 grant. The DHHR also provided a $26,500 grant to train court officials in Wayne and Cabell County, where a post-adjudicatory juvenile drug court reopened in August.

"I am excited about establishing this partnership with the DHHR," Saunders said. "The statistics support the need for a juvenile drug court in Wayne County. Juvenile Drug Courts are one way the courts can help build a continuum of services for children and families."

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