Community

Eight years after state funding cuts ended Jefferson County’s family drug court, a group has raised enough money to open a new court next month.

The Jefferson Family Recovery Court is designed to offer supervised substance abuse treatment and support for families dealing with drug-related charges. David Hawpe, co-chair of the Jefferson Family Recovery Court campaign, said this court differs from Jefferson County’s drug court because it focuses on helping families without relying on incarceration.

“Our approach to family court is put together by looking at best practices across the country,” Hawpe said. “So if it’s more successful in stabilizing families and individuals’ lives, and it costs less, we ought to give it a try.”

The Jefferson Family Recovery Court works as a voluntary, one-year program with four phases. The recovery court judge will make weekly contact with treatment and service providers, participants and their families to help provide them access to services.

The nation’s drug epidemic has devastated towns and led to more than 72,000 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the National Institute On Drug Abuse. More than 400 people died from drug overdoses in Jefferson County last year, according to a news release from the Jefferson Family Recovery Court.

“This is not a silver bullet to solve [the drug epidemic], but it is a step forward,” Hawpe said. “A compassionate city ought to have this kind of effective and economical approach to helping the families of individuals who have abuse problems.”

The court aims to boost family reunification rates, lower criminal justice recidivism, and encourage more participation in treatment programs. Hawpe and Jane Emke, former president of the National Council Of Jewish Women, have raised$403,000 so far and expect to help 30 families with around 150 children annually.

Hawpe said the donations, largely from the Gheens Foundation, the Gannett foundation, Kentucky One Health and others, would allow the court to operate for two years. But court fundraisers hope to raise another $158,000 in private donations to fund the court through 2020. After that, Hawpe said they would ask state legislators for funds to keep the program going.

A celebration for the court’s opening is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, in the second-floor Benjamin Shobe Jury Room at the Jefferson County Judicial Center. The event is open to the public.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.