Officials hope to have Drug Court operational in 2014

Becky Campbell • Nov 1, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Drug offenders with cases in Washington County Sessions Court will soon have a new avenue to handle their cases while learning how to pull out of addiction and lead a productive life — Drug Court.

“Recovery drug courts are a national wave of the future,” said Ann Snodgrass, who is overseeing the development and implementation of the new program in Washington County. Snodgrass, who works for Frontier Health, said the Drug Court committee hopes to have the program operational by 2014.

“The idea behind it is to identify people who are committing crimes due to some substance abuse problem. If we can divert them to treatment instead of jail, it would solve a number of problems.”

Sessions Court Judge Don Arnold said the county received a $70,000 state grant for the new program.

“I’m a very strong advocate for it,” Arnold said. “I think it’s got some real good possibilities. We think we’ve got something we can run with and do really good,” he said.

Surrounding counties — Hawkins, Greene and Sullivan — already have similar programs going in Sessions Court.

Arnold said to supplement the state grant, some court-cost money is also available.

“There’s some money that’s charged on drugs cases that’s been going back to Nashville that we’ll be able to keep. That’s about $15,000,” he said.

Snodgrass said the program will be implemented in Sessions Court for misdemeanor cases.

“At this point we are targeting misdemeanor as opposed to felony drug offenders. What we have is a team — Judge Arnold, an assistant district attorney, assistant public defender, someone from the sheriff’s office, Frontier Health and community agencies. We’re in process of doing our policy procedures, objectives and goals — the foundation for our court,” she said.

“We’re not operational yet; we’re still very much in the formative stages” she said. “Initially we’re looking at 12 people maximum. We have very limited resources. One of the things I’m finding is all the agencies want to work together on this. We have a common goal. … It’s going to take everybody working together. I’m thrilled we have such strong enthusiasm in our community.”

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