Drug court to establish housing for participants

Nov. 16, 2013 @ 11:09 PM

The drug rehabilitation court for the Fourth Judicial District is set to take a big step forward as it’s preparing to buy an 18-acre tract where it will have transitional housing for participants.

That’s been one of the missing pieces for the program started in this area by Judge Duane Slone several years ago. Participants who needed a place to stay while they were trying to overcome addiction sometimes had to go outside the area to get help.

The court is designed to offer treatment instead of punishments for criminal defendants charged with drug possession or other nonviolent offenses where addiction appears to be the main factor leading them to commit crimes.

Many of the participants are in living situations that also contribute to their drug use, and need to move into a different environment where they can live while they try to get clean. In the past, that could mean moving out of the area for a time.

“We didn’t have that resource here,” Slone said.

The cabin on the site will be used to house women at first, Slone said. With the acreage at the site, officials hope to add more housing later, including separate cabins for men.

“Everyone that would be staying there would be going through drug recovery, so they would be receiving treatment,” Slone said.

They will use the site primarily for participants in the drug recovery court program, but will consider taking on other defendants who are in other recovery programs and are recommended for the facility.

There are a number of reasons an environment is needed where addicts can get clean, but one of the biggest is helping pregnant women get and stay clean while carrying their babies.

East Tennessee, including Sevier County in particular, is seeing a growing number of mothers who are addicted and using illicit drugs during their pregnancy.

The drug rehabilitation court program, which generally lasts more than a year, includes multiple drug screens each week, but having a place where participants can live away from bad influences will also help in their efforts to avoid relapses. Slone said one of the women who hopes to move into the new cabin soon is carrying a child, and he hopes the new location will help her remain drug free throughout the pregnancy.

The property is being purchases using funds donated by local governments, including $100,000 form Sevier County.

The landowners agreed to sell it for considerably less than the appraised value after Slone approached them and told them how he hoped to use it.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com