ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. – A Northeast Tennessee drug court is one of 10 in the nation getting recognition for its substance abuse treatment program.

The First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court was named one of 10 national mentor treatment courts by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the U.S. Department of Justice.

As part of its national mentor status, the First Judicial District will help courts around the country wanting to implement a drug treatment program. It will also help the association develop and test new treatment and recovery methods.

Court leaders believe a potential expansion at the former Carter County Work Camp, a facility currently owned by the Tennessee Department of Corrections, could triple the size of the nationally-recognized treatment program.

The work camp expansion would be paid for in part by money collected in a settlement with opioid manufacturers from the Baby Doe lawsuit.

First District Judge Lisa Rice said the involved parties are moving forward with their plan by talking with the state. She was hopeful the court could secure the facility soon.

“We are working on setting some meetings with the appropriate heads of state in Nashville,” Rice said. “We have a lot of support from Governor Lee’s office.”

The First District currently serves Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington Counties. The size of the work camp would allow the drug court to expand operations to the Second and Third Judicial Districts, which includes Sullivan, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins Counties.

Lisa Tipton is the Executive Director of Family Free, a non-profit that runs the treatment program. She said the program is voluntary, requested by non-violent drug offenders incarcerated or in the court system.

Tipton said the program’s goal is to get people in need of treatment out of prison and into recovery.

“We also provide alcohol and drug treatment, psychiatric care,” Tipton said. “We help them obtain employment, provide housing.”

Scott Tirocchi of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals was on hand to present the court with a plaque commemorating the court’s achievement.

Tirocchi said the First District’s treatment program accounts for the clinical needs of drug offenders, which is something other courts often miss.

“This particular program really highlights those issues, and focuses on how can we modify, change the behavior so we never see these folks again,” Tirocchi said.

He said of the over 1,800 drug courts in the nation, and hundreds that applied for the mentorship, the First District was one of the rare few chosen.