Drug court gets $608K grant

Published 1:56 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

Covington County Circuit Judge Lex Short and Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell announced this week that the Covington County Drug Court has been awarded a $608,796 grant award through the Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance.   

The grant, which will allow the program to enhance its operations, will be funded over four years with a 25 percent match by the drug court. The funds will allow for a number of improvements for the program including hiring a licensed, substance abuse counselor, according to the release.

“That individual will handle our assessments and lead intensive outpatient for our participants,” Merrell said. “This will allow our participants to have immediate access to addiction counseling and other help should the need arise,”

A job description circulated by the DA’s office on Tuesday indicated the job requires a master’s degree in psychology, social work or counseling. The full time job has a salary of up to $35,000 annually.

Program enhancements will also include the lease of a vehicle for the court, to will allow for home inspections and curfew checks by court staff, according to the release.

“Home inspections will allow us to look for any potential issues at our participants’ homes and make sure they are living in safe and sober living environments,” Short said. “It will also allow for the implementation of additional sanction options for individuals that break the rules of the program.”

Additional funding will allow for training and supplies over the course of the four-year grant cycle.   

The grant was one of two awarded in the state. 

“Being in a rural location, we do not always have access to an abundance of services,” drug court coordinator Sabrina Cobb said. “This grant will allow us the opportunity to serve our participants in an efficient manner to maintain adherence to the national Drug Court standards.”

The Covington County Drug Court has graduated 215 individuals since its inception in 2009, with a recidivism rate of about 14 percent. The program currently has 145 participants.   

Participants are required to attend regular recovery meetings, meet with their case manager, attend court monthly, submit to frequent drug tests, obtain their GED if they do not have their diploma, and perform community service if required.

“The program is not easy, but if someone truly wants to turn their life around, it is a great tool to help them do just that,”Merrell said.