Drug court gets grant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Covington County Drug Court has received a $30,000 grant from the Alabama Office of Courts for the 2012 funding year.

District Attorney Walt Merrell said the grant is designed to sustain the relatively-new program until it is fully functional.

Ashley Tyson, drug court administrator, said there were 13 drug court participants when she took over in March. Now, there are 41, and she expects that four or five will graduate in January.

“We have grown from two part-time employees to three full-time employees,” she said. “Our goal is to have 75 participants.”

Drug court is typically for first-time offenders who are charged with possession – not distribution – of illegal drugs or a drug-related crime. The person pleads guilty, and gets a suspended sentence. Then, individualized plans are developed, usually beginning with rehab. Participants meet regularly with a case manager, have periodic drug tests, work with the court referral officer and attend classes. They are encouraged to seek employment and to pay their fines.

“The whole objective is for them to get clean and make a contribution to society,” Tyson said.

The latest grant allows the drug court to provide counseling services for substance abusers who also are suffering from a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, Tyson said.

Participants also do community service work. Anyone who needs help with a project can contact the drug court at 504-0465.

Merrell also expressed his appreciation to Judge Lex Short for working with the drug court.