You asked: Funding main reason for lack of drug courts

Published 9:48 am Saturday, December 10, 2011

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You asked: Why are there no drug courts in Western Tidewater area? And does the local community services board offer drug treatment programs?

FRANKLIN—Of the 14 state-controlled courts that handle drug cases, none is in Western Tidewater, mainly due to a lack of funding.

A drug court serving Suffolk and Isle of Wight County was a “pet project” for retired Circuit Court Judge Westbrook Parker. He helped start it in 2004, but despite its success, the funding for it dried up.

“It was a great program, but it was hard to run it without money,” Parker said. “Folks don’t want to fund these programs unless they know someone who’s affected.”

The drug court was very time-consuming and most people involved didn’t get paid, he said.

Virginia Drug Court Association spokesman Greg Hopkins said it would take local judges, funding and community to help set up a local drug court.

“Localities would have to pick up the tab on new drug courts,” Hopkins said. “Every situation is different. Some localities can’t do it and sometimes there’s a grant available to help.”

Paul DeLosh, director of judicial services for the office of the executive secretary of the Virginia Supreme Court, said there is an application process for drug courts and a locality’s application must be approved by a statewide advisory committee before it goes to the General Assembly.

“The General Assembly decides on the funding (on an annual basis),” DeLosh said.

While drug court is not an option locally, there are other drug treatment programs.

The state Department of Corrections offers a therapeutic community, which is an 18-month program and can be offered convicted drug offenders sentenced to at least three years in prison, Southampton County Circuit Court Clerk Rick Francis.

Also available are faith-based treatment programs and outpatient programs from the Western Tidewater Community Services Board that serves Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, said Executive Director Demetrious Peratsakis.

Peratsakis said the board works with local probation and parole offices to offer outpatient substance abuse programs during a probationary period or instead of jail time in some cases. The programs consist of individual and group meetings with a psychiatrist and counseling and can last from eight to 15 weeks, or longer.

The programs are funded by state, federal and, in some cases, local money.

The board provided 19,150 hours of substance abuse services to 1,406 individuals during fiscal year 2011.