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Culpeper County gets DOJ funding to start Drug Court

Culpeper County Courthouse

Culpeper County Courthouse

This story has been updated from its original version.

Repeat drug offenders in Culpeper County will at long last have another option besides jail.

At its meeting Tuesday morning, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 to accept $549,094 from the U.S. Dept. of Justice to start a Drug Court here. The federal funding will cover four years of operations for the drug court slated to be operational here within weeks.

Salem Supervisor Tom Underwood voted no. He previously expressed concern about funding for the program once the federal dollars run out.

Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Walther has advocated for starting the drug court for going on two years now. In a February presentation to the board, the top prosecutor presented statistics showing hundreds of overdoses in Culpeper in recent years, and growing.

Walther also articulated the potential for overall reduced costs in local criminal justice, social services and other benefits associated with helping people who successfully complete the 18-month program stay out of jail.

By the end of the program, successful participants will have received counseling, treatment and resources and have a job as well family reunification.

The federal grant awarded Dec. 17, Walther told the board on Tuesday, will allow for the hiring of a full-time drug court coordinator.

“Now, we can finally get started,” he said.

Walther was met with silence and more silence as Board Chairman Gary Deal asked for a motion at the year’s first meeting to accept the federal funding to start the drug court.

“Sounds like we are moving on to the next item,” Underwood said.

Deal said the board needed to take action to deny or move forward with the drug court.

Catalpa Supervisor Paul Bates questioned the success rate of drug courts. He said two constituents had mentioned it to him, concerned about the money that would be spent to launch the program.

“What money?” replied Walther. “There is no county money. This is all federal money.”

Bates responded that federal funds are still taxpayer money.

Walther said the success rate varies by location, that each drug court is unique.

A local committee of law enforcement, social services, community services and legal system professionals has been hard at work developing the program’s framework. It includes 19 pages of policies and procedures and a 16-page drug court participant handbook.

Board Vice Chairman Brad Rosenberger finally made a motion to accept the funding.

“See where we go from here,” he said.

Cedar Mountain Supervisor David Durr, at the dais for his first-ever meeting, offered the second that allowed the issue to go for a vote, and pass.

The Culpeper County Circuit Drug Court is expected to launch in February, according to Walther, who hoped it would actually start later this month. Judge Susan Whitlock will provide input to finalize the start time, he said.

Drug treatment courts are specialized court dockets within the existing structure of the court system offering judicial monitoring of intensive treatment and strict supervision of addicts in drug and drug-related cases, according to the policies and procedures developed locally.

Eligible drug-addicted persons may be sent to Drug Court in lieu of traditional justice system case processing and participation shall be voluntary. Goals of drug court include reducing drug addiction and drug dependency among defendants; reducing recidivism; reducing related court workloads; increasing personal, familial and societal accountability among defendants; and, promoting effective planning and use of resources among the criminal justice system and community agencies.

Drug Courts have proven to be highly effective for treating drug-addicted people, according to the policies and procedures.

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