Brunswick courts get grant to help treat drug addicts

Brunswick courts get grant to help treat drug addicts
Brunswick County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis (Source: WECT)
Brunswick County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis (Source: WECT)

BOLIVIA, NC (WECT) - A program designed to treat drug addicts rather than send them to prison is getting nearly $1 million in funding, officials announced Thursday.

The Brunswick County Treatment Courts received a grant of $975,000 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The federal funds and will be spread out over three years.

Officials say when people are charged with drug offenses or even property crimes like breaking and entering, the root cause is often addiction. So the goal of treatment court is to help offenders break their addiction instead of sending them to prison.

Participants meet every two weeks with a team including a prosecutor, defense attorney and treatment personnel, according to Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis. She said participants are tested for drugs at least twice a week.

The General Assembly created the Drug Treatment Courts in 1995 to monitor treatments to adults suffering from chemical dependency. The program expanded in 2001, allowing juvenile offenders and chemically dependent parents of neglected or abused children.

"Our goal is to have a clean and sober, productive, contributing member of society as opposed to someone who is in and out of the courthouse every six months," Lewis said.

This program is personal for the judge, whose brother is serving a 20-year sentence behind bars.

"It started very early in life, with a little bit of marijuana between friends, which led to poor choices and a bigger and better high," Lewis said. "And I always felt that if there were some judicial intervention that could have made a difference in his life, the outcome of his story may have been different."

Treatment court hasn't worked for all participants. Some died during the program, Lewis said. But she also points to success stories like 10 babies who were born drug free.

Lewis thanked the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office, county commissioners and other leaders who have supported the program, including Mental Health Court Coordinator Carrie Menke and Trial Court Coordinator Michelle Ingram.

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