CHARLESTON -- Treatment court planning teams from eight counties met in Mercer County in November for the first part of a two-part training session. The second part of the training was held last week in Morgantown.

The teams are from Kanawha, Monongalia, Greenbrier, Preston, Boone, Lincoln, Logan and Cabell counties and want to set up drug treatment courts in their areas.

The teams include judges, magistrates, state and local police officers, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, deputy sheriffs, county commission members, evaluators, probation officers, day report center employees, court administrators, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other community treatment personnel.

The training is funded by a grant received from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

With a decade of research supporting the effectiveness of adult drug treatment courts, such programs are now recognized as an important strategy to improve substance-abuse treatment outcomes and reduce crime. Treatment courts produce greater cost benefits than other strategies that address criminal activity related to substance abuse and addiction that bring individuals into the criminal justice system (GAO February 2005 report).

Adult drug courts serve only those who have either pled guilty or been found guilty of non-violent misdemeanors and felonies, and who were motivated to commit those crimes due to a substance abuse addiction. People can volunteer for the programs to avoid jail and prison sentences, if a judge so orders. Prosecutors have final approval of all participants, and all participants must be evaluated as a low to moderate risk to be released back into the community. People who have been charged with sex crimes or crimes in which a child was the victim are not eligible. Participants undergo substance abuse treatment and are heavily supervised by probation officers, law enforcement and the sentencing court. If needed, they may also undergo treatment for mental illnesses. Participants may be forced to repeat certain phases if they have positive drug screens or if they refuse to cooperate. The judge may impose jail time if he feels it is necessary to make a participant follow the protocol.

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