It's a first for Ohio County, a juvenile drug court program aimed at getting kids clean and off of drugs or alcohol. The multi-faceted program involves counseling, family sessions, drug testing and court appearances. Those involved said the program is not about punishment, it's about early intervention, effective treatment and holding kids responsible and accountable for their conduct.
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent D. Benjamin said the drug courts are about hope, change and opportunity. The change that kids ages 10 to 17 will undergo comes with the help and assistance of many, as each child completes the four phases of the court. Benjamin said the kids will find something in themselves they never thought they would see.
The idea for the program came about two years ago, when Judge James Mazzone saw a need for a juvenile drug court program in the area. "Unfortunately, it has tricked down to our schools, to the streets, where juveniles have access to these substances," he said.
The program is focused on early prevention and detection, and the people around kids the most, including teachers, coaches, parents, and law enforcement officers, who are in the best position to see the early red flags.
"Juvenile drug court, the philosophy we operate under is we have to identify emerging beginning substance abuse problems in our kids. In other words, we want to do it as early as possible," said Director of Probation Services, Mike Lacy.
West Virginia youth between ages 10 and 17 who are non-violent misdemeanor or felony offenders and are drug and alcohol related status offenders are eligible. Participants will meet every Monday at the Ohio County Courthouse and will complete the program in around seven months, depending on their success.