BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The month of July is opioid awareness month. In Bay and Jackson counties, the court systems are doing all they can to make sure those convicted kick the addiction for good.
Those convicted of drug offenses has a way to get clean and hopefully re-start their lives.
“It’s an outpatient treatment program that takes a minimum of 1-year to complete. We have drug courts in here in Bay County and also in Jackson County,” said Drug Court manager, Linda Burd.
Burd says individuals can attend drug court as part of a plea deal or probation. “They have frequent drug testing and the drug testing includes several drugs, 11-12 drugs including fentanyl which is a powerful opioid drug,” said Burd.
Burd says participants are also required to attend support group classes and have frequent appearances in front of Judge Brantley Clark Jr.
“When they first get into the program, I get to meet with all the participants each week to see what their progress is, what are the issues they may have,” said Clark.
Clark says he’s a firm believer in drug court and thinks it’s a life changer. “After they’ve gone through drug court, it just kind of gives everybody a new sense of responsibility to not only themselves but to their families so they repair those relationships.”
Burd says the money for these programs comes from multiple different places. “In Jackson County, the department of corrections helps with the funding. The defendants themselves have a co-pay that they pay and in Bay County, there’s an ordinance that provides funding. Anybody with a drug or alcohol offense pays part of their fine, goes into a fund that helps pay for the treatment of drug court.”
The main goal to ensure people don’t become second offenders and Clark says the low recidivism rate proves it’s working. “It’s 12% in Bay County, about 20% in Jackson County and that’s a lot lower than in regular cases. So you really do, you don’t just change the person right there, you change their behavior from now on.”
In Jackson County, Judge James Goodman presides over Drug Court.
The Florida court system also is recognizing the month.
According to the Florida Supreme Court, Florida and the nation are experiencing a well-documented opioid crisis. Now, there are more annual deaths from accidental opioid overdose than from traffic crashes.
Education, awareness, accountability, and evidence-based medication-assisted treatment programs can make a difference in Florida.
The state’s courts are sensitive to the pain and harm caused by increasing opioid use disorder and committed to improving response. Judges and staff throughout the state will mark July’s Opioid Awareness Month with information about effective programs, self-auditing of evidence-based responses, and promoting conferences and training scheduled for the coming months.
In addition to the statewide judicial branch response, various local court awareness events have also been planned.