Robeson County DA’s office gets money for drug treatment court

Staff report







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    LUMBERTON — The Robeson County District Attorney’s Office soon will add a drug treatment court to its DWI treatment court, both designed to reduce the number of repeat offenders, treat addiction and save lives

    Funding for the court, which was awarded Oct. 16, was made possible through a $500,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant. The court is funded to operate for three years and should begin serving participants in January, said MaryJane Richardson, assistant district attorney. The treatment is free to participants.

    “The Adult Drug Treatment Court Program will be an extension of our office’s DWI Treatment Court, but this new funding will allow us to expand our focus from adults struggling with alcoholism to those who abuse a variety of controlled substances,” said Matt Scott, county district attorney.

    “With this funding, we’ll be able to treat adults that commit lower-level offenses to support their addiction by providing substance abuse treatment, both mental and physical health treatment, and job training and placement. As with our DWI Treatment Court, we hope that this new court will be a small change that creates a much larger impact in our community,” he added.

    Drug courts, which are designed for low-level drug offenders, have been demonstrated to reduce repeat offenses and substance abuse among high-risk, high-need participants and increase their likelihood of successful rehabilitation. These courts integrate evidence-based substance abuse treatment, mandatory drug testing, sanctions and incentives, and transitional services in judicially supervised court settings.

    Treatment court promotes recovery through a coordinated, team approach, including cooperation and collaboration of judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, probation authorities, treatment providers and law enforcement.

    There are 16 drug treatment courts in operation in North Carolina.

    Studies have shown these innovative courts save taxpayer dollars and make communities safer.

    Scott expressed his gratitude to the many people who worked together to help make the drug treatment court a reality.

    “Our office would like to express our appreciation for UNC-Pembroke for allowing Dr. Cindy Locklear to work with us and guide us through this application process,” he said. “We appreciate the efforts and partnership with the Robeson County government in helping us apply and implement this grant. We would also like to thank the Department of Justice for granting us this funding and giving us an opportunity to help our community.”

    In 2019, Locklear and her fellow social work professor, Frederick Stephens, represented The University of North Carolina at Pembroke on a team of local health-care and judicial representatives who helped establish the county’s first DWI treatment court. Locklear and Stephens, with the help of UNCP graduate student Alexis Ellis, assisted with developing policies, procedures and guidelines for the new system.

    “The university has so many resources right here in Robeson County, and it is wonderful to see these joint efforts come together,” Locklear said. “Grant proposals are lot of work, but it is worth it when you see the impact. Change occurs slowly, and this is a good step forward. The whole drug treatment court team has been so dedicated in seeing this effort through.”

    MaryJane Richardson said the DWI court has been making a difference in the lives of participants since its first session on Jan. 9.

    “We currently have 11 participants in our program. Three of which are doing extremely well and are on track to graduate the first part of 2021,” Richardson said.

    Two of the court’s participants have discovered major medical issues that have been diagnosed and are being treated, she said. These are diagnoses the participants may not have gotten had they not been part of the DWI court.

    “Also, many of our participants have found and maintained employment through our program,” Richardson said.