The Highlands Community Services Board in Abingdon received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will pay for more people to enroll in treatment programs.
“That $400,000 grant is year one of a possible five year total grant so approximately two million dollars” said Rebecca Holmes, a Clinical Director at Highlands Community Services Board.
Highlands Community Services is a part of the Washington County Virginia Drug Court Program, which allows individuals with a criminal drug-related background to enroll in a minimum 18 month mong commitment to avoid jail time.
“This program model is intended to serve those that are high risk and high need, which means they are not first offenders,” Holmes said. “They are not individuals that have a small issue with using or misusing substances. We are talking about individuals that have significant levels of addiction.”
The program includes mental health care and psychiatric treatment, drug screenings, lab reports and home visits. Holmes says the program has a proven success rate, claiming ninety-percent of their graduates haven’t re-offended within six months of graduation.
“We can’t arrest out of it,” she said. “We can’t incarcerate our way out of the problem. Ten thousand dollars a year per person to provide this program, in lieu of incarceration which is twenty thousand a year.”
Since the programs start in 2011, staff has seen a drastic increase in enrollment. The program currently has thirty-seven people enrolled and with the help of the the grant they hope to increase that number to almost fifty.
Southwest Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith revealed the grant news on Monday and says drug court programs have saved many lives.
“Particularly with the opioid crisis, which really did get started in the mountains of central Appalachia, where many people got originally hooked by a doctors prescription and then they couldn’t get off of it, it’s very important,” said Griffith. “They’re able to rejoin society and live productive lives and everybody wants that.”
The Washington County Virginia Drug Court program will be graduating four enrolled students on Friday.