Politics

Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton says that the state needs more money for drug courts and special courts that work with veterans and people with mental health conditions amid the state’s drug addiction epidemic.

Minton made the remarks during his annual State of the Judiciary Address on Friday.

Minton said that the special courts currently serve fewer than 2,500 people and that number should be expanded amid Kentucky’s opioid crisis.

“We’re not even scratching the surface of the need…that’s the concern for all of us. The current model is not capable, it does not have the capacity,” Minton said.

Drug courts allow people with substance abuse issues to avoid incarceration by participating in an alternative sentencing program. Participants are often required to undergo counseling and addiction treatment, along with supervision and drug or alcohol testing.

Kentucky’s drug court program started in 1996 and Minton said the program has proven highly effective but needs more funding.

“The stark truth is our current drug court model has become insufficient to address the burgeoning, exploding needs of Kentuckians with substance use disorders,” Minton said.

Minton told state lawmakers Friday that he was drafting a budget request that would urge more funding for drug court programs, which exist in 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

Minton also announced an initiative to try and reduce costs and delays by creating a “business court” in Jefferson County. Minton said that the change would allow less complex cases to move through the court system quickly “to free up resources for more complex cases.”

Minton’s recommendations will be considered when lawmakers hammer out a two-year budget during next year’s legislative session.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.