Craighead Co. awarded nearly $1 million for Juvenile Drug Court

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - An opportunity the Craighead County Judge's office thought was a long shot became reality this week.

A nearly one million dollar grant to the Juvenile Drug Court Program will expand the current program, helping more children.

Assistant to the County Judge, Tony Thomas says the Craighead County Juvenile Drug Court program is fairly new to begin with.

"So of course there's been a great deal of trial and error," Thomas said. However, over the past year and a half, the program has helped roughly 30 children with substance abuse.

"We're not going to get them all, but anything we can do to reduce the number of individuals that move into our adult system, it has some tremendous savings," Thomas said.

Now, they'll be reducing that number even more. A nearly $960,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will over quadruple the amount of teens they're able to help.

"We anticipate, in that three year period, this funding will allow us to increase capacity 130 students," Thomas explained.

Not only can they help more kids, they'll be able to address more needs and concerns related to mental health.

"Our primary goal is to reduce the recidivism in the juvenile population," he said.

Thomas explained they saw the need in the juvenile court program, which prompted them to go after this grant.

"We initially started looking at it from a planning perspective with the hopes that we would have this type of funding to implement some type of court program here in Craighead County," Thomas explained.

According to a press release from the Craighead County Judge's Office, the county received that initial funding for planning in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Justice.

That planning process helped the county identify what expansions to the drug court program needed to be made. Once the application for the SAMHSA grant became available, Thomas said they thought receiving it would be a long shot.

"Just here last week, just enamored when we received the award for close to a million dollars for a three year period."

Receiving that money is something Thomas said was made possible through a collaborative effort of many in the county.

"We have a group of caring, we have a group of dedicated individuals and professionals that know we have a problem and are coming to the table to address that problem," he said.

The project is a collaborative effort between Craighead County Juvenile Drug Court, the Center for Community Engagement at ASU, Mid-South Health Systems and the Office of the County Judge.

The grant money will last until August 1, 2016.

Thomas said after that, they hope they will be able to continue funding it either through grants or the county.

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