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Recovery court coming to Haywood County

Recovery court coming to Haywood County

Haywood County will administer state funds to establish an Adult Accountability and Recovery Court meant to help people experiencing substance use disorder get on the right track — and stay there. 

“I did a little bit of research on this just to educate myself about recovery courts just in general. I think anything we do is a step in the right direction,” said Commissioner Jennifer Best. “National figures show that recovery court graduates remain arrest-free in 75% of the cases, so it really ideally will reduce the number of people that are repeat offenders, and that again is a step in the right direction. I’m encouraged. At least it’s something.”

No county funds will be expended on the project, which will end up being managed by the 30th Judicial District. 

“The state General Assembly put $230,000 a year in place for two years,” said County Manager Bryant Morehead. “After two years, the funding goes away but the judge is building the program  to collect a lot of data so hopefully we can demonstrate to grantors or the state that continuing the program will be in everybody’s best interest.”

Morehead said that Judge Roy Wijewickrama created a work group of other judges, the district attorney, law enforcement, county staff, community members and clinicians to monitor the program. 

“All the logistics, behind the scenes everything is operated by the chief district court judge,” Morehead said. “We’re calling it recovery court because it’s not just a drug court. Alcohol is a huge issue in the county so recovery court will also focus on alcohol.”

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While there aren’t a lot of details about the program at this point, it involves defendants pleading guilty and then appearing before one of two judges every two weeks to report progress on their recovery — the “accountability” portion of the program. If defendants complete the program, their convictions could be dismissed. 

“You come in, you plead guilty, it’s some type of deferred prosecution or they defer the actual judgement being entered against you as long as you complete this recovery court,” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick. “The recovery court is monitored much more closely than it would be if someone’s just placed on probation.”

Those who don’t comply with the terms of the recovery court would find themselves treated in accordance with their guilty plea. 

Commissioner Brandon Rogers said he thinks it’s a good move and asked for regular reports on the program so that the county can build a case for more funding in the future if the program is successful. 

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