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Pulaski Drug Court is MAT model for Virginia program

FRANKFORT, Ky., April 27, 2018 – Lincoln/Pulaski/Rockcastle Circuit Court Judge David A. Tapp and Pulaski County Drug Court staff and team members recently spent a day educating a Virginia judge and drug court team about medication-assisted treatment. The Eastern Kentucky program is serving as a model for the VERITAS Adult Drug Treatment Court as the Bristol, Va., program moves toward offering MAT for participants with opioid addiction.    

“With the continued rise in overdose fatalities and the tremendous economic cost to taxpayers, courts need to be involved in expanding meaningful access to treatment to opioid users,” Judge Tapp said. “It’s always an honor to assist other stakeholders in implementing effective strategies in their communities. We’re happy to have the opportunity to work with the Virginia team.”

VERITAS, which is grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Virginia General Assembly to institute MAT with Vivitrol as part of its program. VERITAS Judge Sage B. Johnson, who is a circuit judge for Virginia’s 28th Judicial Circuit, selected the Pulaski County Drug Court program as his team’s technical assistance site. Judge Tapp was the first Drug Court judge in Kentucky to use MAT and began offering Vivitrol in 2014 to wean participants off opioids. Drug Court programs in 20 counties now use MAT.  

Judge Johnson, six VERITAS staff/team members and a SAMHSA representative met with Judge Tapp, local Drug Court supervisor Ashley Laxton and Drug Court team members April 19 in Somerset. The group observed a Drug Court staff meeting, Drug Court hearings, and Vivitrol shot administration. They also participated in a question and answer session with Drug Court participants, doctors and other officials involved with administering MAT, including representatives of the Department of Corrections, the Pulaski County Detention Center, the Eastern Pulaski Rural Health Clinic and a pharmaceutical company.

“We very much appreciate Judge Tapp and the Drug Court team for allowing us to observe their process and learn from them,” Judge Johnson said. “They run an outstanding drug court program and we look forward to implementing many of the suggestions they provided. The commonwealth of Kentucky should consider itself fortunate to have such a wonderful program.”

The Virginia group also observed hearings for individuals in the SMART program, which is similar to the Drug Court program and designed to help probationers with a high risk of reoffending to modify their behavior. The Administrative Office of the Courts and the Department of Corrections administer SMART, which stands for Supervision, Monitoring, Accountability, Responsibility and Treatment. SMART participants may also take part in MAT.

About Kentucky Drug Court
Kentucky Drug Court is part of the court system’s Department of Specialty Courts, which is overseen by the AOC in Frankfort. In addition to Drug Court, the department includes DUI Court, Mental Health Court and Veterans Treatment Court programs. Collectively referred to as Specialty Courts, these programs are similarly structured and supervised and have the same goal — to give eligible participants the opportunity to make positive changes in their lives. The programs all provide oversight by a judge, case management, treatment and drug testing.

Drug Court provides court-supervised treatment as an alternative to incarceration. The program’s success can be measured in the number of lives changed and the cost savings to Kentucky taxpayers. For every $1 spent on Drug Court graduates, the state saves $2.72 on what it would have spent on incarcerating these individuals.

The program has helped reduce illicit drug use and related criminal activity and lowered rearrest, reconviction and reincarceration rates. It has increased payments of delinquent child support and improved employment rates. As of June 2017, 8,593 individuals had graduated from Drug Court programs statewide and participants had paid $6.2 million in child support and $6.7 million in court obligations, including restitution and fines.

Drug Court coordinates the efforts of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social services and treatment communities to actively intervene and break the cycle of substance abuse, addiction and crime. The program consists of three phases that last at least one year and are followed by aftercare. Drug Court staff and participants work together to develop individual program plans with specific responsibilities and goals with timetables. Plans include group, family and individual counseling; frequent and random urine testing; education and vocational training; scheduled payments of restitution, child support and court fees; and health and community activities. Participants report directly to their Drug Court judge, who rewards progress and sanctions noncompliance.

When participants successfully complete the program, charges may be dismissed through diversion, or conditional discharge may be granted through probation. Judges who participate in Drug Court volunteer their time to the program.

Administrative Office of the Courts
The AOC is the operations arm for the state court system and supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and 404 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC also executes the Judicial Branch budget.

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