CHARLESTON — More parts of West Virginia may see family drug treatment courts established as House Bill 2918 heads to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice.
The West Virginia Senate passed the bill Thursday, which makes the pilot program official.
There are eight such treatment courts throughout the state, including in Boone County. The Boone program is funded by a federal grant while the Supreme Court has funding from the McKesson opioid settlement to establish 10 courts. They have plans to open three more this spring.
“Once they hit 11, though, they will reach capacity and probably need some help,” said Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, on the floor. He was responding to Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, who pointed out the bill does not provide funding to expand family drug treatment courts.
Like adult and juvenile drug courts, family drug treatment court works with adults who find themselves in the criminal justice system as a result of substance use disorder. Family court participants have an adjudicated child abuse or neglect case.
The bill passed Thursday also removes a provision that excluded parents who had lost custody of their children from future participation. Boone County Judge Will Thompson told the House Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention Committee that just because a person lost custody of one child doesn’t meant they won’t have more children in the future.
According to the state Supreme Court, so far, 109 people have been served, with 22 already graduating. There have been 148 children served, 38 children reunited with parents and 20 permanently placed back with their parents.
Thompson said pre-COVID-19, the program was finding a lot of success because it provides support to the person needing help. His Boone County program has seen 16 graduates so far and 16 children reunited with their families.
It costs about $100,000 to operate a treatment court, Weld said. Thompson explained that another hurdle is finding a judge willing to spend the extra time to run the court. He suggested a bonus for judges who participate.
The Senate made no changes to the House bill, thus completing the legislation. Justice can sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.