Drug courts strive to help the addiction problem in West Virginia

West Virginia is not immune to the drug problem that plagues the United States. In fact, two counties in the Eastern Panhandle, Jefferson and Berkeley, have the unfortunate distinction of being designated what are called High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.

Local authorities say that heroin has become a particular problem. Much of it can be traced to Baltimore. Law enforcement agencies at all levels are working to break up heroin distribution rings in the Baltimore area.

However, heroin isn't the only drug plaguing our state. According to the sheriff of Jefferson County, in the six counties that make up the Eastern Panhandle, the use of illegal drugs in general is well over the national average with one exception: marijuana. The sheriff says that last year in Jefferson County alone, about 140 drug overdoses were reported. Of course, the actual number could be much higher. One report found that West Virginia has the highest drug overdose rate in the country.

Many West Virginians who are suffering from addiction may be much better served by going through the state's drug court system than the regular criminal court system. There are separate drug courts in our state for adults and juveniles.

Neither is easy, but the adult program is generally stricter. They are required to attend daily meetings and undergo regular drug testing. They are generally either sentenced to home confinement or required to wear a tracking device.

One official with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals describes juvenile drug court as a way to "divert non-violent juvenile offenders exhibiting alcohol or substance abuse behavior from the traditional juvenile court process to an intensive, individualized treatment process which includes parental involvement and cooperation."

Juveniles in the program, along with their parents or guardians, are required to meet regularly with a probation officer and participate in counseling. The official notes the "phenomenal" success of the program. He says that many of those who completed it have finished high school and gone on to attend college or serve in the military.

If you or your child is facing criminal charges because of a problem with substance abuse, drug court may be the best way to get your or your child's life back on track. Your criminal defense attorney can advise you regarding whether this is a possibility and, if so, strive to make it happen.

Source: The Picket, "Drugs Ravage Eastern Panhandle," Mike Morris, March 30, 2016

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