'We're up against a lot of obstacles': Hawkins County's drug court needs housing, transportation

Jeff Bobo • May 8, 2017 at 6:58 PM


ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross told county commissioners last week that the Recovery Court he started in 2013 needs to provide housing and transportation in order to serve more drug-addicted clients.

Since being implemented in 2013, the drug court, as it is more commonly referred to, has served 42 people.

Of those 42 clients, nine have graduated, which is well above the national Recovery Court success rate of 16 percent.

Ross told the commission’s Budget Committee last week, however, that there are currently only five people in the program.

He presented both his Sessions Court and Recovery Court budgets to the committee Thursday without asking for more funding for either.

However, Hawkins County’s inability to offer transportation or housing to Recovery Court clients is a major hindrance to the program, Ross told the panel.

“Until we can get a residential place for them to go, it’s just hard,” Ross said. “We’re taking on people who have probably never held down a job, never had responsibilities and can’t get to probation once a month, and we’re telling them, when you get out of jail Monday morning, over the course of the next week I think there’s 23 different appointments that they’ve got to make it to each week. You couldn’t make it to probation once a month, and now you’ve got to be in 23 places a week and be on time every time.”

Ross added, “When people are in jail, they and their families are like, they can come live with us, and we’ll get them where they need to be. When they get out, all of a sudden they can’t live here anymore and we can’t drive them around. It’s just too much. And we’re scrounging around trying to find a way to keep them sober and attending their meetings.”

Ross told the committee he’s hoping to acquire a small house as a residential facility for the program to help ease the transition for clients into the program. Still, he knows the program can’t save everyone it tries to help.

“If out of those 42, if we can say we helped one of them, then I’m fine with that,” Ross said.

Recovery Court operates mainly on a $50,000 state grant along with some fine revenue.

No local funding pays for the program.

Recovery Court Director Amy Cinnamon told the committee, “We’re up against a lot of obstacles.”

The program is required to accept clients who are at most risk of recidivism. So along with having substance dependence problems, they also present a higher risk of having more criminal-thinking behaviors.

“A problem that we’re having is the majority of the people that we assess, they don’t have anywhere to live,” Cinnamon said. “They can’t be in our program without a place to live, and we don’t have anywhere to put them. We have that obstacle. Also we require them to go to all these different treatment programs during the day, they have to go to community support at night, and they don’t have a driver’s license.

“When they start, they have a person to drive them, but too often their driver gets tired of driving them around during the day. It’s getting more and more difficult with lack of resources.”

Most other drug courts send clients to an in-patient facility before they start the program.

But if they’ve been in jail for a period of time before they start, in-patient facilities won’t take them if they’ve been clean longer than 5-7 days.

The local probation office assists with potential daily urine screens, and grant funding allows them to administer a drug patch, which indicates illegal drug use.

The local probation office also assists with GPS monitoring, and telephone tracking to make sure a client is home when they’re supposed to be.

“Addiction is very, very difficult,” Cinnamon told the committee. “They do relapse. It’s expected. But I did have one girl tell me the other day, when she was first told she was accepted into our program, that was the first time in her life she had ever been accepted. She relapsed this week, and that happens, and we have to work past that.”                                                              

Relate past stories:

Hawkins Recovery Court to celebrate first graduate with ceremony

PHOTO GALLERY: Hawkins judge awards diploma to first grad from his Recovery Court program

Ross hopes to continue working to solve Hawkins County's drug crime problems

Hawkins judge wants all drug treatment providers working as a team

Hawkins judge seeks more office space for programs keeping people out of jail





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