About 75 people filled the Barren Circuit Courtroom Tuesday evening in support of starting a Drug Court program locally.

“This is a very important date for Barren and Metcalfe counties,” Circuit Court Judge Phil Patton told the crowd.

“This is an incredible task we’re undertaking, but the fact is we have to do something and we’re going to need the support of the entire community,” Patton continued, saying that while violent crimes are decreasing, drug-related crimes are on the rise.

With prisons and county jails filled to near capacity, legislators turned to alternative measures in 1989 with the creation of the first Drug Court in Miami, Fla.

“They realized prison just wasn’t the answer,” said Joanie Abramson, who serves as assistant general manager for Drug Courts in Kentucky with the Administrative Office of Courts.

Drug Court, an intensive drug treatment program aimed at rehabilitating first-time offenders who are arrested for felony possession of drugs for personal use, was started in Kentucky in 1996.

With aid of a federal grant, a Drug Court program will begin in Barren and Metcalfe counties this fall as part of a statewide effort to address substance abuse problems in the Commonwealth.

“The time is now to get involved,” Barren County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Eaton said. He said he has witnessed childhood friends fall prey to drug addiction over the years as methamphetamine infiltrated rural America.

The Drug Court program will allow people with a substance abuse problems to get the necessary treatment and law enforcement to concentrate their efforts on catching drug traffickers, Eaton said.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Karen Davis agreed.

“I wholeheartedly support this program,” Davis said, calling it a “tremendous step forward.”

“The judicial system experienced an explosion in its workload,” she added, referring to the growing number of drug-related arrests in recent years. “I am committed to its successful implementation,” Davis said.

As part of the program, Drug Court participants are required to remain drug and alcohol free, enroll in a residential treatment program, including AA, NA or other faith based program, maintain full-time employment and/or volunteer for community service, stay current in child support obligations, undergo random drug testing twice or more weekly and must not commit any other crimes.

Contact Stacy Neitzel by emailing sneitzel@glasgowdailytimes.com.

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