/Drug court finds way around cuts

Drug court finds way around cuts

The judge in charge of the program has, with the help of the state Mental Health department found a way for the program to continue to function. These problems began earlier in the year. The funding for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health was cut by $8.3million after the Legislature approved a state budget plan. The agency cut more than 100 adult-male chemical dependency units at the Mississippi State Hospital, South Mississippi State Hospital, and East Mississippi State Hospital in response to budget cuts. “We used to send males (Whitfield) to the state hospital. They had a wonderful program. They’ve now closed their doors, so our options are limited. It’s causing quite some problems for us right at the moment,” Winston Kidd, Hinds County Circuit Judge, told Mississippi Today. Kidd, who oversees the adult felony drug court of the state’s largest county, stated that the problems most affect the poor. Kidd has been in charge of the juvenile drug court for five years. People charged with nonviolent offenses that may have been aggravated by a drug addiction can use the drug courts as an alternative sentencing program. The program allows people to plead guilty to the charges they are facing. A case manager will then develop a treatment plan. This could include inpatient or outpatient drug treatment. To avoid being sent to jail, participation must be monitored and completed according to court approval. Participants who can afford treatment can choose to go to private facilities. For those who are poor it can be more difficult. Participants with low incomes can negotiate lower costs with treatment centers or the court on their behalf, but this is not always possible. People who are unable to get into residential programs may have to go prison. Kidd recently discovered an alternative option for those who cannot afford residential treatment: Intensive Outpatient Treatment at Hinds Behavioral Health Services, Jackson. The Department of Mental Health has increased funding for 15 community mental-health centres like Hinds Behavioral to offset the loss of chemical-dependency units in state-run facilities. Adam Moore, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health said that since the closing of state hospitals, the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services of the agency has increased funding for indigent beds at community-mental health centers by about $400,000. Moore stated that the Department of Mental Health has “recognized the state’s need for alcohol and drug treatment services” and increased the indigent funding available to community mental hospitals. Moore spoke on Mississippi Today. Wilma Pittman is a social worker and has been running Hinds Behavioral Health’s intensive outpatient treatment program from October 2015. She said that the integration of drug court participants has proven to be successful. Pittman stated that outpatient treatment, which is offered three days per week and for three hours each day, has the advantage of allowing participants to maintain their relationships with loved ones while still working. Pittman, whose motto is “educate & motivate”, stated that drug court participants get the same treatment as anyone else. Counselors must track drug court participants’ attendance so officials can keep tabs. Pittman stated that the program was going well. Pittman stated that even if someone relapses, they will still have the tools to continue their journey towards sobriety. Kidd also points out the rise in drug-court participation since 2011, when he started the program. It was 58 people who participated, compared to 150 today. Kidd sees this as one reason why the Legislature should allocate more money to treatment and fund full-time judges for drug courts. The counselor Kidd and Pittman would like transportation funding to allow participants to get to counseling sessions. Kidd stated that even though they were convicted of a crime, it is important to help them avoid committing another crime.