WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department has granted a $1.4 million federal grant to West Virginia to aid the state’s drug court system.
The West Virginia Supreme Court will oversee the funds, which U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) said will help support existing programs and expansion into other counties. The grant is from the DOJ's Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program.
“Drug courts are powerful tools for those who have run into trouble with the law, but have a drug problem,” Jenkins told The West Virginia Record. “We know that so many crimes today are connected to drug use and people battling the disease of addiction. Traditional systems don’t really address or take into consideration the drug element.”
Jenkins stressed that while taking on a different approach, drug courts nonetheless still hold people criminally responsible for their actions.
“We trying to do it in a smarter way,” he said. “I’ve seen how these courts work and the judge has a team there that works for the common good. They all come up with a plan that the individual follows that addresses the criminal element while also helping with the drug addiction.”
The Center for Disease Control has reported that West Virginia had the highest drug-overdose death rate in 2015 and more recently Business Insider added the state has one of the highest prescription rates of opioids in the country.
“Drug courts are not unique to West Virginia and are becoming more popular because of the number of drug crimes going up across the country,” Jenkins, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and serves as vice chairman of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, told The West Virginia Record.
Jenkins added the plan calls for the state to do even more to fight the problem.
“Here in West Virginia, we have a serious issue and it can lead to criminal activity,” he said. “I have been using the power of the purse to direct funds that might help tackle this problem. The crisis won’t go away overnight and we’re taking a longtime approach to dealing with everything.”